The Lamb and the 144,000.
The Fifth Vision in heaven is very brief. It is another Episode, telling us of those who will have come through the great Tribulation, and have been caught up to Heaven.
It is part of the larger Episode, and is parenthetical. The previous vision on Earth has told us of those who were slain because they refused to worship the Beast or receive his mark. Those who were for death, had been killed; and those who were to be kept alive, have been kept alive (xiii.10). The worshippers of the Beast received his mark; and these received the mark of the Lamb (Christ) and of His Father in their foreheads. This seems to point to the 144,000 sealed ones, of whose sealing we read in chap. vii. They had passed unscathed through the judgments of God, and through the persecutions of the Beast.
The Vision occupies only five verses, and their Structure is as follows: --
H^5, xiv.1-5. The Fifth Vision |in Heaven.|
The Lamb and the 144, 000
H^5 A xiv.1. Description.
B 2. The heavenly Voices. The Singers.
B 3. The heavenly Voices. The Song.
A 4, 5. Description.
xiv.1. And I saw, and behold the Lamb standing upon Mount Zion, and with him an hundred and forty-four thousand, having his name and His Father's name written upon their foreheads.] This was the promise made to the overcomers in iii.12; and this was the seal of chap. vii.3. At least this seems to be the case, though some regard this as another body. It seems, however, more natural to take them as the same; no other such number being mentioned, and nothing being said to prevent us making this mistake of identifying them.
In chap. vii. we have the sealing; here, we have the end of which they were to be sealed. In chap. vii. the object of their sealing is that they might pass through the Tribulation unscathed; here we see the object attained. The result of their testimony will be seen in the formation of that body which will be the nucleus of the new nation.
The Vision is in heaven; for the singers stand before the Throne, and they are with the Lamb. He is not yet descended to the Earth. This decides the point that it is the heavenly Zion which is here referred to. The Temple on Earth was close to Mount Zion; so the Temple in heaven is correspondingly near to the heavenly Zion.
They are comparatively a small body, but these are the firstfruits to God and the Lamb; and the firstfruits are necessarily a small proportion compared with the harvest. In Rev. vii.1-8 and xiv. we have the |firstfruits,| and in Rev. vii.9-17 and xv. the whole harvest, or the larger number.
In the second verse we have the Heavenly voices and the singers. This again shows the Vision to be in Heaven; for none of these Heavenly Visions are without the utterances of Heavenly voices.
xiv.2. And I heard a voice out of heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as a voice of great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as that of harpers, harping with their harps:] The word rendered |harpers,| (...) (kitharodon), denotes those who accompany the voice with the harp.
The next verse is constructed as follows, showing the importance of its statements: --
B, xiv.3. The Heavenly Voices. The Song.
B a 3-. The New Song. (pos.)
b -3-. The Place: before the Throne.
a -3-. The New Song. (neg.)
b -3. The Number.
xiv.3. And they sung, as it were, a new song before the Throne, and before the four Zoa, and the Elders: and no one was able to learn the song except the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been purchased from the earth] Here we have the reference to their song. This is the only instance where the actual words of the song are not given. It is called |a New Song|; that is, it had a new subject or theme. As only the 144,000 could learn it or sing it, it probably concerned only themselves, and the wonderful miracles God had wrought in saving them from and through and out of the great and awful temptations and dangers hinted at in the concluding description in the 4th and 5th verses. Only those who had gone through that Tribulation could understand the song which celebrated it. It is not a general statement that the wicked cannot participate in the joys of the church! but a far more important fact which is stated. The song is |new| because it is sung by a new company, and has a new theme for its subject.
They sing it before the Throne,
before the Zoa, and
before the Elders.
They can all understand and appreciate it, for they are participants in these judgment scenes.
Its new theme can be gathered from the next two verses; the structure of which is as follows: --
A, xiv.4, 5. The Second Description.
A c e 4-. Character. Undefiled. (neg.) f -4-. Reason.
d -4-. Employment. Followers.
d -4. State. Redeemed.
c e 5-. Character. Faultless.
f -5. Reason.
The character of the singers is twice given; and the two are separated by the active and passive employment and condition of the singers.
xiv.4. These are they who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins.] These words are generally taken as |figurative.| But figures of speech are known, and can be named and defined. What is meant is that they are taken as symbolical, or as meaning something different from what is said. But this comes from not seeing the scope of the book as a whole, and from not discerning the real character of the days and of the religious condition of things. We have more than once, in the Epistles to the Assemblies, and on chap. ix.20, 21, said that Fornication will be part of the great religious system of Anti-Christ in the coming time of trouble and temptation; as it formed an obligatory part of the great pagan systems of idolatry. Idolatry was not a mere sin into which people gradually sunk; but it was a Satanic device into which people rose in order to gratify the lusts of the flesh under the cloak of religion.
Hence the references to Balaam (ii.14) and Jezebel (ii.20). Hence, too, the description of these 144,000 here, who had been kept from all these abominations. It is not merely that only one single virtue (chastity) is predicated of the redeemed in general, as some put it; but, it is a special feature of the evils from which this special company will be preserved, and for refusal to partake of it, multitudes (vii.9-17; and xv.1-4) will have suffered martyrdom. Only those who know what those evils will be can understand the import of their wonderful deliverance, or sing their song. It is not because of any moral difference between us and them; or between the ungodly and the righteous, but because of the different experience through which they will have passed. That is why none can learn that song; and that is the explanation of the words we are here considering; and that is why the pronoun |They| is so emphatic.
-4. These are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, a first-fruit to God and to the Lamb. (5) And in their mouth was not found the lie, for they are blameless. ] i.e., blameless as to the matter above referred to; and have not received |the Lie| which all others will have believed. See 2 Thess. ii.11, where the definite article is used, |the Lie,| viz., the Lie that it is right to set God's laws at defiance by adopting the practices of the new Religion framed by the infernal Trinity of Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet. The three explanatory statements, each commencing |these are they,| are to be taken literally, and as meaning just what they say. The teaching of demons in 1 Tim. iv.3 in |forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats,| goes far deeper than Popish celibacy of the clergy, and Fasting. This teaching |forbidding to marry| comes from the Abyss, and is connected with Anti-christ's Religion; while the |abstaining from meats| is only to weaken people's will-power, and to make them more susceptible to the influences of these evil angels and demons.