Rev. 14:4 – These are the ones not defiled with women, for they have kept their virginity. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They were redeemed from the human race as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb. 5No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (HCSB)
They have kept their virginity
Now John provides a further description of the 144,000: “These are the ones not defiled with women, for they have kept their virginity. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes … No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless” (vv. 4- 5).
Few commentators insist that John is speaking of celibate men. While some biblical saints are in fact virgins – and Jesus acknowledges that God has called some to remain so (see Matt. 19:11-12) – there is nothing in scripture that equates celibacy with a special degree of spiritual maturity. The “virginity” here clearly is symbolic of spiritual purity on the part of the 144,000.
W.A. Criswell puts John’s words in proper context: “Consider, for example, 2 Corinthians 11:2, where Paul says to the church at Corinth: ‘… for I have espoused you to Christ, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to our Lord.’ Now, does that mean that all those folks in the church at Corinth were unmarried, that all the men were bachelors and all the women were spinsters? … The idea is impossible. But we know what Paul means. He says to the Corinthians that the church is going to be presented to Christ as a chaste virgin. Likewise, when the text describes these men in Revelation as virgins, it refers to the fact that they separated themselves from the pollutions and corruptions of the earth. They were virgins unto God. They had given themselves in pure devotion to the Lord” (Expository Sermons on Revelation, Vol. 4, p. 147).
Rev. 14:1 – Then I looked, and there on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with Him were 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
With Him were 144,000
John sees with the Lamb “144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (v. 1). Who are the 144,000? Are they the same people we encounter in Revelation 7? And should the number be taken literally or symbolically?
We first hear of 144,000 in Rev. 7:4. They are identified as “slaves of our God” who are sealed “on their foreheads.” This is similar to the 144,000 in Rev. 14:1 who have the Lamb’s name “and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” This special group is sealed on earth in Revelation 7, and is referred to as “the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth” in Revelation 14. However, the sealed slaves in Revelation 7 are from “every tribe of the Israelites,” while those sealed in Revelation 14 are not identified as ethnic Jews. So, are these the same people?
It would appear so, even though there is no clear consensus among scholars. Some insist they are the same 144,000 since they are sealed by God on their foreheads and are redeemed from the earth. Those who hold this view stress that we see the 144,000 on earth in chapter 7 and in heaven in chapter 14. Other interpreters, however, say that these are two different groups: Jews in chapter 7 and the “redeemed from the human race” in chapter 14 (v. 4), suggesting that Gentiles are included in this number.