RAMONA LOWE
THE BOOK OF REVELATION ARTIST
   The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2


Page 105

The Everlasting Gospel

(Revelation 14)

     In stark contrast to the fearsome power of the beast and his evil purposes for the world, as described in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation, the fourteenth chapter assures us of the greater power of the Lamb and His holy purposes.  It is as though John were echoing the psalmist: “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. . . . But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.  And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him” (Psalm 37:35-40).

Redemption of the Hundred and Forty-four Thousand

     Before the great judgment trumpets began to blow, a remarkable event had been recorded by John.  A protective seal had been placed on the foreheads of 144,000 chosen ones out of the tribes of Israel, assuring them of immunity to the plagues about to be unleashed on the earth-dwellers (Revelation 7:2-4; 9:4).  But now the wicked one had commanded that all must die who would not receive his mark in their foreheads (Revelation 13:16, 17).  The battle had been joined, but “he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18).

Revelation 14:1.     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.

     Ten times John uses the formula: “And I looked” (or “saw” or “beheld”) and “lo” (or “behold”) (Revelation 4:1; 5:6; 6:2; 6:5, 8; 7:9; 14:1, 14; 15:5; 19:11).  Each time it serves as the introduction to a marvelous event, one which John himself could hardly have believed had he not seen it with his own eyes.

     And surely no more amazing sight could have burst upon his vision than this.  The most vicious persecutions of the beast and all his forces will be unable to destroy a single member of the 144,000 sealed ones, and John sees all of them congregating in a glorious assembly at the end of the great tribulation right on Mount Zion itself.  The protecting seal, now revealed to be nothing less than the very name of the Father, has performed its good work.  No longer will the Gentiles defile the holy city, for the chosen ones of the Father will lead a new nation into His glorious kingdom here on earth.

     The Lamb is there with them, in their midst, on the holy mountain of Zion, having come finally not only to claim, but also to possess, His own dominion.  John sees all this as certain to come to pass, despite the despotic rule and deadly purges just ordered by the beast and his prophet.

     Many commentators spiritualize this passage, taking it to be a vision of heaven and glorified saints. Even futurist interpreters, for some reason, often consider the 144,000 servants of Revelation 7 to represent a different group than the 144,000 here in Revelation 14.  “Mount Sion” is taken as the church triumphant or the heavenly home, or something similar.  The fact is, however, that Zion (or Sion) always refers in Scripture either to the actual mountain on which Jerusalem was built, or to Jerusalem herself personified.

     This generalization probably even applies to Hebrews 12:22-24, a passage often interpreted to refer to heaven: “But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

     The word “come” in the above passage means basically to “draw near” (and is so translated in Hebrews 10:22) or “consent” (see 1 Timothy 6:3).  The thrust of the above Hebrew passage is that the Jewish Christians to whom the epistle was addressed had not been content with only the doctrine emanating from Mount Sinai, speaking of judgment on sin, but had gone on to the doctrine of salvation through the blood of Jesus, and its ultimate promise of the restoration of all things.  The city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, will one day indeed come down out of heaven when the Lord returns in the air.  Probably an earthly “model” of this new Jerusalem will then be established on Mount Zion, the literal mountain in Jerusalem, a promise often repeated in the Old Testament prophecies (Isaiah 2:3).  The spirits of righteous men will not be “made perfect” at death, but at the resurrection and the judgment seat of Christ.  Furthermore the great assembly of the church of the firstborn will be called together only when He returns.

     Thus, both Hebrews 12:22-24 and Revelation 14:1-5 refer to the great future gathering of all the saints on Mount Zion in Jerusalem when Christ returns to earth at the end of the tribulation period.  Most of the saints will have returned with Christ, after their resurrection and glorification (1 Thessalonians 3:13; Revelation 19:14), but the still-living saints who have survived the tribulation will also be there.  And chief among these will be the 144,000.

 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 I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps.

     The last time the Lamb had actually been seen by John, He was in the midst of the heavenly throne (Revelation 7:17), surrounded by the multitude redeemed from the great tribulation, the implication being that they had been won to faith in Christ through the testimony of these same 144,000 witnesses.  John had seen them in a prophetic vision immediately after the sealing of the 144,000, being translated forward to the end of the tribulation, apparently to a point in time immediately prior to the descent of the Lamb and all His saints from the throne in heaven to their work on earth.

     In like manner here, he is again translated momentarily even further ahead in time to see the Lamb with His chosen witnesses who have survived the great tribulation still in the flesh, standing triumphantly on Zion’s mountain in Jerusalem.

     But then, having glimpsed the future glory, he is brought back to the present, that is, the middle of the tribulation, by the cry of a mighty voice from the midst of the throne in the skies.  At this point in time, the Lamb is still there, with the elders and the living creatures.  The 144,000 are still witnessing on earth, and the great multitude still are to come out of the great tribulation.

     Once again the mighty voice from heaven seemed as the sound of thunder (Revelation 6:1) and the sound of roaring waters (Revelation 1:15).  The voice this time, however, was not that of the cherub or even of the One on the throne, but of the entire assembly, chanting a beautiful song of majesty and holiness.  The melodious sound of the harp also poured through the heavenly throng, accompanying the song of the host.

Revelation 14:3.     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.

     The song was a new song, never heard before in earth or heaven.  The theme of the song is not revealed but whatever it is, it is uniquely appropriate to the unique experiences of this unique body of 144,000 dedicated Christian witnesses.  They had been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, protected by the name of the Father sealed on their foreheads, and completely dedicated to His service and testimony.  Many have been Christ’s faithful witnesses and martyrs through the centuries, but never a group like this.  The song which they would sing no one else could ever really “learn” (the Greek word means “experimentally understand”).  The heavenly assembly could sing the words and the tune, but only the 144,000 could truly understand its meaning, for it was their new song.

     The Scriptures tell of nine “new songs,” and each one speaks of a glorious theme specifically designed for the singer of the song.  The first six are in the book of Psalms (Psalm 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1) and one is in Isaiah 42:10.  One of the new songs was that sung by the redeemed host at the throne of the Lamb when He received earth’s title deed (Revelation 5:9).  The last new song is here on this occasion.  One other song is mentioned in Revelation, but it is not a “new song,” being identified rather as “the song of Moses, and of the Lamb” (see on Revelation 15:3).

     Although the words of the song of the 144,000 are not recorded, it surely dwells in part at least on the great truth that they had been “redeemed from the earth.”  Although in one sense all saved people have been redeemed from the earth, these could know the meaning of such a theme in a more profound way than others.  They had been saved after the rapture, at that time in history when man’s greatest persecutions and God’s greatest judgments were on the earth.  It was at such a time that they, like Noah (Genesis 6:8), had “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and had been separated from “all that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 13:8).  Not only had they been redeemed spiritually but, precursively as it were, they had been redeemed from the very curse on the earth (Genesis 3:17), being protected from pain and death by the guarding seal.  Further, they had apparently even been set free from the very presence of sin in their lives in order to accomplish the unique and demanding ministry ordained for them by the Lamb.

Revelation 14:4.     These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.  These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.  These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

     These identifying marks of the 144,000 are quite specific but commentators have been inclined to spiritualize them and make them apply to whatever group appeals to their own conceit.  A number of cults (for example the Jehovah’s Witnesses) maintain that they are the 144,000.  Another popular opinion is that these are the outstanding servants of God selected from all generations (no doubt including among them those who advance this idea).

     But the Scriptures are explicit.  In the first place they are all male Israelites, 12,000 from each tribe.  They are “servants of God” redeemed from among men, and they follow the commands of their Lord in all things, being disobedient in nothing.  Further they are all virgins, not one having ever experienced sexual intercourse.

     These constitute a rather rigid group of specifications, and one can search both history and the present world in vain to identify such a remarkable body of men.  The conclusion is that they have not yet been called and sealed.  The unique exigencies of the tribulation period will require a unique ministry of witness, and these must be specially prepared by God.

     Some writers recoil at the phrase “defiled by women,” noting the teaching of Scripture that “marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).  Therefore, they assume that the virginity spoken of is a spiritual virginity, as when Paul told the Corinthians he desired to present them “as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2), not defiled by idolatry and other forms of spiritual unfaithfulness to their heavenly bridegroom.

     It must be remembered, however, that Paul himself remained unmarried and recommended such a state to these same Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:1, 7) if they were so called and gifted.  The Lord Jesus said that some men would “be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.  He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matthew 19:12).

     The fact is that the burden of this special ministry of witness during the tribulation period will be so demanding and so urgent that those who exercise it cannot be concerned with either personal comfort or family needs.  They have no time for wives or children; they must follow the Lamb wherever He leads.  “He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32).  Not only must they remain unmarried, but also they must have remained free from sexual sin in their youth as well.  Even though the marriage bed is undefiled, being outside the will of God in any area of life is defilement and, in the case of these chosen ones, their virginity and complete single-mindedness have been God’s will for them from their youth up.

     They are called the “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”  This identification must obviously refer to the firstfruits of the tribulation period, and presumably the firstfruits of revived Israel.  As far as those saved before the tribulation are concerned, Christ Himself is “the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23).  Long before the complete harvest of Israelite believers at the end of the tribulation however, when “all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26), these 144,000 Israelites will be redeemed and prepared, as firstfruits, for their special service to their brethren and to others during the climactic years of the great tribulation.

Revelation 14:5.     And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

     Here is further testimony to the single-mindedness of those dedicated servants of God.  Like their Master (1 Peter 2:22) “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,” these witnesses are so devoted to Him and to the need of souls for whom He died that their tongues belong completely to His message.

     And because there is no guile on their lips, there is no fault in their hands.  “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2).  No wonder no one else can learn their song!

     How is it possible that 144,000 men – even redeemed men – could be so wholeheartedly perfect before the Lord?  The answer can only be in terms of God’s grace.  Noah, for example, “was a just man and perfect in his generations” (Genesis 6:9) but, before such a testimony could be given of him, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).  Like John the Baptist, who was “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15), and like the Apostle Paul, who could testify that God had “separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace” (Galatians 1:15), these had been called and prepared from birth.  They had not been sinless, for all have sinned – even Noah and Paul and John the Baptist.  But God had so prepared and protected them that they had never yielded to the sin of sexual defilement, being zealous toward God from infancy.  Their redemption from among men had been foreordained from the foundation of the world but not effectuated until after the rapture of the believers of the Church Age.

     Then their zealous Jewish eyes had finally been opened and they had recognized and received the Lord Jesus as the Messiah for whom they had been longing. Their sins had been forgiven so that they were now indeed “without fault before the throne of God,” and were then enabled, still by God’s grace, to continue in the things which they had learned.  As the Apostle Jude had promised, God indeed is “able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).

     Thus the days of great men wholly dedicated to God are not past.  It will be a tremendous experience, at the coming great assembly of all the saints of all the ages on Mount Zion not only to meet the ancient godly patriarchs of former generations like Noah and Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14), but also these equally strong and godly younger witnesses of the last generation.  Their holy examples, both past and future, can convict and challenge and encourage us in our own witness in this present generation.  Perhaps, in the grace of God, it might even be that what we do now will contribute in some way to the calling and saving of the 144,000 chosen men in the days to come.

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