Revelation

14:1-5

The Messianic Judgments, 6:1-16:21

3. The battle with the beasts, 11:19-15:4

vi] The triumph of the redeemed and the Lamb

Synopsis

In a new vision of heaven, John sees the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with 144,000 of the redeemed. They are marked on their foreheads with the name of the Father and the Lamb. This great crowd is made up of redeemed believers, blameless ones purchased by the Lamb, believers who have not defiled themselves. A heavenly orchestra strikes up and the redeemed believers begin singing a new song before the throne of God, a song that no one else can sing.

 
Teaching

In the kingdom of God, the redeemed stand secure in Christ.

 
Issues:

i] Context: See 11:19. So far, in the cycle of visions titled The Battle with the Beasts, 11:19-15:4, we have been given a glimpse into the end-time tribulations facing the Christian community. The visions begin in the temple, but quickly move to the sounds of judgment outside, finally culminating in the gathering of the redeemed beside the glassy sea, 15:1-4. In the first part of the vision we witnessed the war between the evil trinity (the Red Dragon and his two beasts), and the woman and her offspring. This is a struggle between "the political, religious, and economic forces that would pressure the followers of Jesus into compromising or abandoning their faith in order to obtain a more secure place in their social worlds", Koester. Now, in chapter 14, this war between the powers of darkness and God's people shifts from struggle to victory, from earth to heaven. John shows his readers that in the end, the redeemed will be victorious and the powerful forces of evil will be destroyed. Those who worship the beast will have to drink the wine of divine wrath. The chapter falls naturally into three parts:

The triumph of the redeemed and the Lamb, v1-5;

The message of the three angels, v6-13;

The gospel news, v6-7;

Judgment, v8-13.

The coming of the Son of Man, v14-20.

Osborne's method of dividing this major section entails taking note of the phrase kai eidon, "and I saw": 12:1-18 (part 1 and so without a marker), 13:1-10, 13:11-18, 14:1-5, 14:6-13, 14:14-20. Whether this is a valid frame or not remains unclear, but his suggestion that the section as a whole falls into two main parts seems likely:

a) The war of the false trinity against God and his people, chapters 12-13;

b) The action of God and his people in response, chapter 14.

 

ii] Background: See 1:1-8.

 

iii] Structure: The triumph of the redeemed and the Lamb:

The vision, v1:

The 144,000 standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb.

The confirmation, v2-3:

"No one could learn the song except the 144,000."

Who are the redeemed?, v4-5:

Devotees of the Lamb

 

iv] Interpretation:

John's perspective changes again. In the previous chapters the perspective of John's vision was from within the church / Christian community; John looked out into a world falling apart; he witnessed the reign of the beast on earth over those marked with its name / number (BEAST = 666). John now receives a new vision. This time he is back in heaven viewing the Christian community from a heavenly perspective. He sees, raised up in the presence of God, a heavenly / spiritual Mount Zion (cf., Heb.12:22-24), and upon the mountain he sees the Lamb standing with those who have persevered in faith through the reign of the beast. They too are marked, not with the beast's mark, but with the Lamb's mark; on their forehead they are inscribed with both the name of the Lamb and the Father (cf., Ezk.9:4). Of course, as with the mark of the beast, the apocalyptic image of a mark on believers is not an actual mark, but just as those who worship the beast / the secular city are easily recognized, so are those who worship Jesus. The redeemed persevere in faith rather than accommodate themselves to the secular city, the whore of Babylon. John describes the redeemed as pure "virgins", undefiled, "blameless". This description draws on the image the Old Testament prophets often used of Israel - an adulterous people, always chasing after other gods. The redeemed are "virgins" in that they do not worship the beast. They have chosen to wear the mark of God rather than the mark of the beast and so they stand "blameless" before God, "purchased" by the Lamb - by grace we are saved, through faith. "They follow the Lamb" and thus they are a holy people - and we are invited to join with them.

 

The 144,000. See 7:1-8. The number of the redeemed is represented by a complete number, 144,000 (cf., 7:4 / 9, 14:1). The point being made is that the beast has not taken any of the redeemed from the Lamb; "they are a countless multitude cleansed by the Lamb - the Christian community", Koester, so also Beale, Smalley, .... Again, the number serves as an apocalyptic image, not a literal number of the redeemed (this is the same group as "the great multitude", 7:17, although it is an earthy representation of the heavenly reality). If we are determined to stay with a literal number, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, we would have to accept that they are also literally virgins and Jews - that rules me out! Some commentators argue that it is a select group of believers, usually identified as martyrs, so Yarbro Collins, Caird. Aune argues that they are the final surviving members of the Christian community at the time of Christ's return, protected through the tribulation with the mark of God. We are best to follow Koester and friends and take the 144,000 as an apocalyptic image of the Christian community. We do need to note that "144,000" lacks an article and so we can't argue that it is anaphoric, referencing back to say 7:4 / 9, "the great multitude that no one could count." Of course, the article is not a requirement for backward referencing.

 
Text - 14:1

The triumph of the redeemed and the Lamb, v1-5: i] The vision, v1: Despite the violent attack of the unholy trinity against God's people, the kingdom of the Lamb and his Father God (Zion) stands safe and secure and complete (144,000 = "the whole body of the faithful redeemed", Smalley).

kai "then" - and. Transitional. John uses the conjunction kai in the place of de to indicate a step in the narrative. The addition of eidon kai idou, "[and] I saw and behold", reinforces the move to a new vision.

eJstoV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "standing [on Mount]" - [and behold the lamb] was standing [upon the mount]. The participle is probably part of an incomplete periphrastic construction missing the verb to-be; "and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb", ESV. Note that John's favorite spacial preposition takes an accusative here. Usually, with the sense "on, upon", it takes a genitive. Does he mean something like "above"?

Ziwn "Zion" - Here standing in apposition to "the Mount; "the Mount, namely Zion." The Red Dragon stands beside the sea; the Lamb stands on the rock, the mountain. In the prophets, Zion is "the place of God's dwelling and people, the city which he will establish and govern at the end-time", Smalley. Zion equates with the heaven Jerusalem, presumably in heaven, although Beasley-Murray argues that at this point it is in the state of coming down from heaven, cf., Rev.21:2.

met (meta) + gen. "with [him]" - [and] with [him one hundred, forty four thousand]. Expressing accompaniment / association.

ecousai (ecw) pres. part. "who had" - having [the name of him and the name of the father of him]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Lamb", as NIV.

gegrammenon (grafw) perf. mid./pas. part. "written" - having been written [on the forehead of them]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the noun "name ..... which was written"; "who had the name and that of his Father inscribed upon their foreheads", Cassirer. The redeemed bear the mark of divine ownership and protection.

 
v2

ii] The confirmation, v2-3. Now gathered before the Ancient of Days, a heavenly orchestra strikes up and the congregation of the redeemed join together in a hymn of victory / conquest, a hymn that can only be sung by the faithful, those who have persevered in faith.

ek + gen. "from [heaven]" - [and i heard a voice, sound] from [heaven]. Expressing source / origin; "from, out of ..."

wJV adv. "like" - as. Comparative, introducing an adverbial comparative clause.

uJdatwn (wr atoV) gen. "[the roar] of [rushing] waters" - [a sound, voice] of waters [many]. The genitive, as with "[sound] of thunder [great]", is best treated as adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, limiting "sound", "the sound which rushing water makes and the sound which loud thunder makes", but they could also be classified as ablative, source / origin, "the sound from rushing water", or verbal, subjective, "the sound produced by rushing water." The heavenly orchestral sound has divine overtones because the voice of the Son of Man sounded like "the roar of many waters" and the voice of the elders was thunderous. "A sound like that made by a great quantity of water rushing forth, a sound like that given out by a violent clap of thunder", Cassirer.

hJ fwnh "the sound" - [and] the sound [which i heard was]. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. The article is anaphoric, referring back to the beginning of the verse, ie., the same sound is in mind.

kiqarw/dwn (oV) gen. "[like] that of harpists" - [as, like] an orchestra of harpists. The genitive is best treated as adjectival, epexegetic, limiting by specifying an assumed noun such as "orchestra"; "an orchestra which consists of / consisting of / made up of harpists." If we assume an ellipsis, other possibilities present themselves, eg., "the sound I heard was like the music of harpers playing their harps", Barclay - the genitive being verbal, subjective, "the music produced by ...", ablative, source / origin, "the music from ...", .......

kiqarizontwn (kaqarizw) gen. pres. part. "playing" - playing harps. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "harpists", genitive in agreement; "harpists who are playing harps."

en + dat. "-" - with [the harps of them]. The preposition here is instrumental, expressing means; "by playing their harps."

 
v3

wJV "[a new song]" - [and they sing] as [a new song]. Variant reading, see Metzger. Here this comparative particle introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception, expressing what John heard, namely, "and they sang what seemed to be a new song", cf., Zerwick. The singers are not stated, although they are surely the 144,000, so Mounce, although Koester suggests angels, and Aune the harpists; cf., 5:8-10, 15:2-4 for a combined choir. The song is a "new song", a term used in the Psalms of a song praising God, often praising him for his salvation - victory over the powers of darkness, see Psalms 33, 40, 98, 149 ...

enwpion + gen. "before [the throne]" - before [the throne and] before [the four living beings and the elders]. Spacial; "before, in front of."

maqein (manqanw) aor. inf. "[no one could] learn [the song]" - [and no one was able] to learn [the song]. Complementary infinitive completing the sense of the negated verb "was able." Only the redeemed can understand the song, and so sing it. The verb manqanw, "to learn", here means more than just learn the words, but also understand what the words mean. Only the redeemed are able to do that.

ei mh "except" - except [the one hundred forty four thousand]. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception.

oiJ hgorasmenoi (agorazw) perf. mid./pas. part. "who had been redeemed" - the ones having been purchased. The participle may be treated adjectival, attributive, limiting the 144,000, "who had been ransomed from the world", Barclay, but it can also be taken as a substantive forming a noun clause standing in apposition to the 144,000, "those who have been ransomed ....." Note the participle is masculine, but the 144,000 is feminine, ie., the gender is according to sense.

apo + gen. "from [the earth]" - Expressing source / origin. "The saints are those who have been rescued by the Lamb from the world of unbelief and error, and from the tyranny of compromising behavior", Smalley, cf., Mounce.

 
v4

iii] Who are the redeemed? v4-5. In v4, three descriptions of the 144,000 are introduced by ou|toi, "these [are] ....." Together the faithful make up the pure bride of Christ, the followers of Christ, and the redeemed, God's firstfruits. In v5 we are told that they stand blameless before the Lord. By announcing who they are, John encourages us to make sure they are one of the 144,000 - we are to mark these qualities in our own life.

oi} pro. "those who [did not defile themselves]" - [these are] those who [were not defiled]. The pronoun serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional construction "with women were not defiled" into a substantive, object of the verb to-be. Originally this pronoun may have been the article oiJ wrongly pointed later, "the ones with women not defiled."

meta + gen. "with [women]" - Expressing accompaniment / association; "in company with ...." The image of an immoral relationship outside of marriage, commonly associated with prostitution, is metaphorically used by the Old Testament prophets to describe unfaithful dealings with God, usually in the terms of going after other gods, cf., Jer.3:1-10, Ezk.23:1-21, Hos.1-2. It seems very likely that John has this type of defilement in mind, rather than proposing the impossible notion that the 144,000 are morally pure, having never visited prostitutes, or had sexual relations outside of marriage. We do well to remember Jesus' words that even the adulterous thought condemns us, cf., Matt.5:27-28.

gar "for [they remained virgins]" - for [they are virgins, celibates]. Possibly causal, introducing a clause explaining why they did not defile themselves, so Barclay, as NIV, although more logically explanatory, so Mathewson; "they have not defiled themselves, that is, they have kept themselves chaste", they are male virgins ("maidens", Koester). Again, this apocalyptic imagery continues to draw on the OT imagery of faithfulness to God in the terms of sexual purity, here extended to "male virgins." The 144,000 are those who have continued in faith and not given themselves to the glories of the secular city. Babylon.

oiJ akolouqounteV (akolouqew) pres. part. "they follow [the Lamb]" - [these are] the ones who follow [the lamb]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive pronoun "ou|toi, "these ones"; "it is these who follow the Lamb", ESV. " The verb "to follow" takes a dative of direct object and for this reason tw/ arniw/, "the Lamb", is dative.

o{pou a]n + subj. "wherever he [goes]" - This construction is adverbial, serving to introduce an indefinite local clause; "wherever the Lamb went they followed", Peterson.

apo + gen. "[they were purchased] from [among mankind]" - [they were purchased] from [men]. Expressing separation, "away from", or source / origin, "from, out of." The intended sense is surely that they were "purchased from", in the sense of redeemed "from", bondage.

aparch (h) "offered as firstfruits" - Standing in apposition to ou|toi, "these", so further explaining the nature of the redeemed - they are the firstfruits for God and the Lamb, that part of humanity which belongs to God. From God's perspective, "the most precious people on earth", CEV, but Aune's "devoted servants" is somewhat nomist. The 144,000 are more rightly described as "God's consecrated people", so Smalley.

tw/ qew/ kai tw/ arniw/ dat. "to God and the Lamb" - Dative of interest, advantage; "firstruits for God and the Lamb", ESV.

 
v5

en + dat. "[no lie was found] in [their mouths]" - [and] in [the mouth of them was not found a lie]. The preposition is local, expressing space, metaphorical. The singular "mouth" is distributive so translated in English as "mouths". This rather strong moral statement (one which no believer could say of themselves!) is drawn from the OT, cf., Ps.32:2, Isa.53:9, Zeph.3:13. It stands as a statement of fact; the 144,000 are "blameless" before God. Just as only the firstfruits can be brought to God's sanctuary, so too only those who are blameless can present themselves before God. Of course, this has always been the problem faced by God's people, a problem reinforced by the Sinai covenant. The promised covenant blessing of belonging to God was constantly thwarted by sin and it was only in Christ, the one blameless man, that the covenant promises were finally realized, realized in those who "followed the Lamb" in faith. Only in the one blameless man, by grace through faith, can we stand "blameless". None-the-less, John's point may not be as Pauline as this. He does seem to relate false prophecy with falsehood and that could be the link he wants to make here with this OT allusion. The redeemed have not taken up the lie of the false prophets, the ideals, shibboleths, philosophies of the secular city, Babylon, but rather have remained true to the eternal city. "The saints are called to maintain with enduring integrity the sharp distinction which exists between truth and error, and between the service of God and the worship of idols", Smalley, cf., Jer.13:25.

amwmoi adj. "blameless" - [they are] blameless, spotless, unblemished, without blemish. Standing as the predicate of the verb to-be. A word associated with the OT sacrificial system.

 

Revelation Introduction

 

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