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The Victorious Lamb and the Redeemed (Revelation 14:1-5)

Revelation chapter 13 ended with a somber and chilling picture of what the first century Christians were up against.  Christianity was outlawed by the Roman Empire, it was illegal for the Roman citizens to engage in commerce with the Christians who refused to worship Domitian, there was a government organization who's sole duty to the empire was to enforce emperor worship and Christians who were caught refusing to worship Domitian were being persecuted to the point of death.  God has forewarned His children what they are soon to be up against and now, starting in chapter 14, He is going to give them some encouragement.  While we look at the hope God gave them, let's keep in mind that it is upon the success of these and other persecuted Christians that was responsible for keeping the light of God shining for us down through the ages.   God promised us that His kingdom would stand forever, (Luke 1:33).  It always was, is and will be the responsibility of the faithful to make it so. 

Revelation 14:1
And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. (ASV)

Revelation chapter 14 opens with the Lamb standing on mount Zion.  The lamb is symbolic for Jesus Christ, (John 1:29, Revelation 5:6), and the mount Zion is used in the scriptures to represent physical Jerusalem, (2 Samuel 5:6-7), the church, (Hebrews 12:22-23), and here for heaven or divine headquarters at the right hand of the Father, (Acts 7:49).  The Christians knew this couldn't mean physical Jerusalem because it had already been destroyed along with the temple. 

Notice the Lamb, (Jesus) was not seen standing on the sand of the sea, like Satan, (the Dragon), or rising from the restless waters like the Roman Empire under Domitian, (the first beast), or on the earth like the second beast, (the Roman Concilia).  Rather, the lamb was standing on mount Zion which throughout Jewish history consistently represented victory.  Hebrews 12:22 notes Mount Zion as the location of the church of the living God, the immovable kingdom.  The Word of the Lord was said to go forth from Jerusalem, which is also Mount Zion.  Jesus, the champion of the Christians, was seen, looking down from the immoveable, eternal, invincible Mount Zion, here representing the heavenly headquarters of which Satan himself directly attacked but was defeated and thrown down. 

Standing with Jesus on Mount Zion was the one hundred and forty four thousand who had the Father's name written in their foreheads.  The number twelve represented a complete nation and religious organization to the Hebrews.  This is the number of the tribes of Israel which as a whole represented their entire nation which descended from Abraham.  There were twelve tribes, there were twelve stones on the breastplate of the high priest, (Exodus 28:21).  At the dedication of the alter at the tabernacle, each tribe offered their sacrifice, one per day for twelve days.  Then when the alter was dedicated there were twelve chargers of silver, twelve silver bowls, twelve spoons of gold, twelve bulls sacrificed along with twelve rams, twelve yearling sheep and twelve goats, (Numbers 7).  When the Israelites crossed over the Jordan river into the promised land they carried twelve stones to build an alter, (Joshua 4:3).  When Elijah confronted the priests of Baal, he built an alter of twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of Israel, (1 Kings 18:31).  There are more examples but this is a sufficient sampling to establish that the number twelve had a very significant religious meaning to the Hebrews.  It symbolized completeness in their organized religion.  Twelve times itself and then multiplied by 1000, a multiple of 10 which represents a complete man, would therefore represent a religious assembly of complete Christians of vast proportions, hence the visual imagery of a large number of the redeemed.  This large group of redeemed souls is further identified as we move further along in the chapter.

So we have the image of Jesus standing on an unconquerable position with a large number of the redeemed surrounding Him.  These souls have the name of His Father written in their foreheads.  This imagery is in contrast to those who bore the mark of the Beast and identifies them as belonging to God and abide under His protection.  This language calls to mind the words of Jesus as quoted in John 6:27, ("...for him hath God the Father sealed").  Paul spoke of the sealing twice in his letter to the Ephesians in 1:13 and 4:30.  So we see that the name of God written in the foreheads of the redeemed are representative of the "sealing" or the marking of ownership that takes place when one becomes a child of God. 

Revelation 14:2
And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard (was) as (the voice) of harpers harping with their harps: (ASV)

John heard a voice from heaven which substantiates Mount Zion as being the heavenly headquarters in verse 1.  The voice John heard and described for us in earthly terms was like many waters, great thunder and harpers harping with their harps.  John did not not literally hear water, thunder and harpers with harps.  The water probably represented soothing peace and tranquility, the thunder described volume, and the harpers with harps, beauty and harmony. 

Revelation 14:3
and they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders: and no man could learn the song save the hundred and forty and four thousand, (even) they that had been purchased out of the earth. (ASV)

Please note that in verse 2, John described the voice he heard as a singular designation, while in verse 3, he uses the word "they" characterizing a plurality of singers.  This is significant in the text to note that John described these singers as singing with one voice.  This is representative of absolute unity, which is what every Christian is to strive for.  The song John heard was the unified redeemed singing with one voice, a song that only they could learn because no one else has the right to partake in it.  It is likely a song of praise and victory.  Those who are not redeemed will not get to partake in the singing of that song. 

The four living creatures and the elders will be the same as those depicted in the throne scene of Revelation 4:6-11.  Each creature had eyes in front and back signifying the all seeing omniscience of God.  Hebrews 4:13, "And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (ASV)  One creature was like a lion which represents strength.  Another is like a calf which could represent endurance under the yolk.  Another has the face of a man which could represent intellect.  And the fourth is like an eagle which represents penetrating vision and swiftness in the execution of judgment.  These creatures are always before God, revering Him and declaring His holiness and his eternal nature.  Psalms 90:2, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." (ASV)

The elders mentioned will represent great historic figures in the minds of the Christians.  Such figures as Abraham, Moses, and Elijah; great figures of faith designed to inspire hope and perseverance in the minds of the oppressed saints.  Of significance in identifying them in Revelation 4:10 is the description of them "casting their crowns before the throne."  These elders enjoy kingly authority, but it is due entirely to their relation to God, all of their authority being derived from him. This is a beautiful symbolization of words in this verse.  They are elders before the throne of God, but they owe it wholly to God and when they bow before the almighty, their authority, which is represented in their crowns is doffed and thrown at the creator's feet.  When the creation looks upon the throne, all eyes are on God.

At the end of verse 3, we have the hundred and forty four thousand mentioned again in this context, and John identifies them for us this time; Revelation 14:3, "the hundred and forty and four thousand, (even) they that had been purchased out of the earth." (ASV)  Those who have been purchased out of the earth are the redeemed, bought back from death by the blood of Jesus, (Acts 20:28). 

Revelation 14:4
These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These (are) they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, (to be) the firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb. (ASV)

John devotes the entire next two sentences to further identify the hundred and forty four thousand.  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:2, "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."  The saints written of in the new testament were often referred to as a "bride" in their relationship with Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:27, Romans 7:4).  There is another sense of defilement for which John is undoubtedly alluding to in the imagery here.  Idolatry is characterized in scripture as committing spiritual adultery.  In Ezekiel 23:37 we see God's condemnation for participating in the idolatrous worship of Molech, where part of the worship was the sacrifice of their children by fire to the pagan god.  This idolatrous worship was characterized as adultery.  Those to whom John were writing were warned not to bow down to the beast and worship him.  Therefore it is obvious that John's reference here to the virgins is representative to those who refused to bow down and worship Domitian.  John is making this vision more personal to the oppressed Christians as the imagery narrows down to them specifically. 

These (are) they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.  Refusing to worship Domitian was a priority to those who would stand with the lamb on Mount Zion, but it was by no means the only requirement.  In addition to refusing to bow down to Domitian, the redeemed had to be faithful to Jesus and keep His commandments whatever they may be or wherever they may lead. 

These were purchased from among men, (to be) the firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb.  Those who stand with Jesus were purchased from among sinful mankind.  Of significance is the wording "the firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb."  The use of the word "firstfruits" leaves no doubt that there will be more redeemed than those pictured in this imagery.  This is in direct contradiction to those denominational doctrines which espouse the number of souls in heaven to be literally one hundred and forty four thousand. 

Denominational teaching literalizes the hundred and forty four thousand in various ways to represent the number of saved souls who will be taking up residence in heaven with God.  Some of those who hold to this doctrine try to set forth the idea that earth will be regenerated sometime in the future to stand forever.  The millennial doctrines hold to belief in the physical return of Jesus Christ who is said will reign for a thousand years from Jerusalem.  It is not in the scope of this study to examine all of the variant beliefs regarding the misuse of the hundred and forty four thousand symbol.  However, it should be noted here that to literalize any element of this imagery demands the rest of the figures in this context be interpreted literally as well.  So with this in mind, if the hundred and forty thousand is literal then we can also infer from the accompanying text that they will be all men in consideration of the fact that they had never been defiled with women.  In addition to this, the fact they were all virgins according to the text, means that no one who had ever been married would have any hope of being among those privileged to live in heaven.  Therefore heaven would be populated with a hundred and forty four thousand men who had never been married.   No woman that ever existed would get to live there with God in heaven.  Such a notion is utterly ridiculous and should be summarily rejected on the basis of being at best nonsense.  There is no limit to the damage one can do with scripture through selective literalization of the text.  The figure of the hundred and forty four thousand is as symbolic as the rest of the language complementing it within the context.  Serious students of scriptural analysis must learn to interpret figures such as these consistently so as to avoid error in understanding. 

Revelation 14:5
"And in their mouth was found no lie: they are without blemish."  John teaches that there will be no liars in heaven, (Revelation 21:7-8, Revelation 22:15), and the redeemed are spotless, washed in the blood of the lamb, (Revelation 1:5).

These five verses in Revelation 14 are full of imagery, and it's no wonder.  The letter has reached a significant turning point.  The enemies of God and the Christians are not going to prevail.  Their defeat is being announced before the struggle even begins.  If such a document stating this and the following facts plainly were to fall into the hands of the authorities, it would result in a wholesale extermination of the already hated Christians.  Just the rumor of Jesus being born was enough to spell the doom for every male child 2 years old or less under the rule of Herod.  Imagine what the result would be if Domitian came into possession and could understand a document that spelled out his ultimate defeat? 

A paraphrase of what John was saying could be worded thus:

"And I saw Jesus Christ, our champion, standing on an unconquerable position surrounded by the redeemed, knowing them personally.  They were all singing a comforting and beautiful song of victory.  The song they sang before the throne of God was a song no lost person could ever know or hope to sing.  They never gave in to Domitian or bowed down to worship him.  They kept the commandments of Jesus to the end and were among the first to be eternally saved from among the men of the earth."

Church of Christ Lessons on the Revelation of Jesus Christ

1.  Understanding Revelation
2.  Symbolic Objects in Revelation
3.  Understanding the Numerical Symbolism in Revelation
4.  Identifying the Opposition Characters in Revelation
John's Introduction to the Churches of Asia

6.  John's Vision of Jesus Christ
7. The Church who Left Her First Love, Ephesus
8.  Smyrna, the Suffering Church
9.  Pergamum, the church in Hell's Headquarter
10.  Thyatira, the church that Condoned Sin
11. Sardis (The Dead Church)
12. Philadelphia (The Church With Opportunity)
13.  Laodicea (The Lukewarm Church)

14.  Letter to Your Church
15.  John's Throne Vision (chapter 4)
16.  God the Redeemer Revealed  (chapter 5)
17.  God the Avenger of His Children (Chapter 6)
18.  Who Will Be Able To Stand  (Chapter 7)
19.  The First Four Trumpets
(Chapter 8)
20.  The Fifth Trumpet (Chapter 9:1-12)
21.  The Sixth Trumpet Announcement (Chapter 9:13-21)
22. The Little Book and the Unutterable Thunders (Rev 10)
23.  The Seventh Trumpet Announcement (Rev 11)
24. The Conflict (Revelation 12)
25.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the First Beast)

26.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the Second Beast)

27.  Chapter 14 (The Victorious Lamb and the Redeemed)
28.  Revelation 14 (The Turning Point)
29.  Revelation 14 (The Sickle and the Winepress)
30.  Chapter 15 (Comfort for the Saints)
31.  Chapter 16 (Bowls of Wrath)
32.  Chapter 16 (The Battle of Armageddon)
33.  Chapter 17 (The Scarlet Woman)
34.  Chapter 18 (Fallen  is Babylon)

35.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Chapter 19)
36.  The Fall of Satan  (Chapter 20)
37.  Heaven, the Home of the Soul  (Chapter 21)
38.  The Spirit and the Bride Say Come  (Chapter 22)
39.  The Dating of the Revelation

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Revelation 21:5-7

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.