The 144,000 “males” seen on Zion comprise the “first-fruit” of the final harvest, the priestly company that “follows the Lamb” – Revelation 14:1-5.
Previously, John saw the 144,000 “males” from the tribes of Israel encamped, presumably, around the Tabernacle. Now, the same company appears on “Mount Zion.” Collectively, they constitute a priestly company, the “first fruits” of the far greater harvest to come. The group stands with the “Lamb” in contrast to the “inhabitants of the earth,” who bow to render homage to the “beast.”
They have the Father’s name “written on their foreheads,” whereas, the “inhabitants of the earth” have their foreheads “branded” with the “mark of the Beast.” The “name of the Father” is the equivalent of the “seal of God” that was placed on the “servants of God” in chapter 7. Earlier, to the church at Philadelphia, Jesus promised to write the “name of his God” on the forehead of every believer who “overcame” – (Revelation 3:10-12, 7:1-8).
- (Revelation 14:1-5) – “And I saw, and behold, the Lamb, standing upon the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his name and his Father’s name written upon their foreheads. And I heard a sound out of heaven, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of loud thunders; and the sound which I heard was as of harp-singers harping with their harps, and they sing, as it were, a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one was able to learn the song, save the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. These are they who with women were not defiled, for they are virgins. These are they who follow the Lamb wherever he is going. These were redeemed from mankind, as a first-fruit for God and the Lamb; and in their mouth was found no falsehood, blameless they are.”
The “Dragon” was last seen standing on the “by the seashore,” where he summoned his “seed” to attack the “seed of the woman,” the beasts from the sea and the earth. Now, John sees the “Lamb” standing on “Mount Zion.” To ask whether this refers to “heavenly” Zion is to miss the point of the contrast.
Revelation continues to build its portrait of the “Lamb” from the messianic passage recorded in the second Psalm. In the book, the Messiah appointed by Yahweh reigns already from “Mount Zion.”
The present passage details how the Messiah and his followers overcame and now reign with the “Lamb” over the nations. In the preceding two chapters, the “Dragon” attempted to destroy the messianic “son” and his people, the “seed of the woman.” God responded by providing victory through His anointed one, Jesus.
- (Psalm 2:1-6) – “Wherefore have nations assembled in tumult? Or should peoples mutter an empty thing? The kings of earth take their station, and grave men have met by appointment together, against Yahweh and against his Anointed One, saying: Let us break asunder their bonds, and cast from us their cords! He that sits in the heavens will laugh, My Lord will mock at them. Then, will he speak to them in his anger, and in his wrath confound them. Yet I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
The number ‘144,000’ is symbolic and a multiple of 12, the number elsewhere associated with the people of God. But the symbolism is fluid. In chapter 7, the 12,000 “males” from Israel became the “innumerable multitude” of men and women redeemed from “every tribe and nation.” In the present passage, the stress falls on the company that has been “purchased from the earth” – (Revelation 7:1-17, 21:12-21).
The “voice of many waters” is a verbal link to the opening vision of one “like a son of man,” where he walked among the seven churches:
- (Revelation 1:15) – “And his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters.”
The description of the men who “sing a new song” and “harp their harps” echo words heard in the vision of the Throne. Before it, in anticipation of the victory of the “Lamb,” the “twenty-four elders” and “four living creatures” played their harps and “sang a new song” in praise of the one who “purchased men from every nation,” making them a “kingdom of priests.” That is now a reality on “Mount Zion.” Only the men redeemed by the “Lamb” understand the “new song” – (Revelation 5:8-10, Exodus 19:5-6).
The priestly company is composed of men and women “purchased from the earth” (agorazō), which translates the same Greek verb rendered “purchased” in chapter 5:
- (Revelation 5:9) – “You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals because you purchased [agorazō] us for God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”
Now, standing on “Mount Zion” with the “Lamb,” is that very group of men and women purchased by his lifeblood from every nation and ethnic group.
Agorazō is from the Greek noun for the marketplace, the agōra. Here, there is a deliberate contrast with the activities of the “beast from the earth” that prevented anyone who refused to venerate the first “beast” from participating in economic activity – (“That no man might buy [agorazō] or sell, except he that had the mark”).
But the “beast” has no authority to prohibit the “Lamb” from “purchasing” whomever he desires, which counts far more than any economic sanctions imposed by the “False Prophet.”
The redeemed constitute a priestly company. Likewise, the men and women “purchased by his blood” as declared previously before the Throne, were designated a “kingdom of priests.” Likewise, the members of the “innumerable multitude” that was standing before the “Lamb” in chapter 7 were arrayed in white priestly robes and “rendering divine service” before the Throne.
The 144,000 “males” on “Zion” are ritually pure (“They were not defiled with women”), in contrast to the Nicolaitans and the “teaching of Balaam” that taught Israel “to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.” These men are designated “males” specifically because they are “priests of God” – (Revelation 2:14, Numbers 25:1-4).
They also constitute the “first-fruits” of the final “harvest,” just as the Levites were the “first-fruits” of all the men of Israel destined to inherit the promised land. Likewise, the 144,000 “males” are the “first-fruits” of the final harvest of men and women that will be “reaped” before the “final hour” – (Revelation 14:15-16).
The priestly company follows “the Lamb wherever he goes”; it follows the same path as him. It is the “army” sent into battle in response to the question raised in Chapter 13 – “Who can make war with the beast?” Its soldiers refused to “render homage” to the “beast,” therefore, they are well-equipped to wage war with it. However, they “overcome the Dragon” in the same paradoxical manner as did Jesus – through faithful witness and even martyrdom.