Rev. 14:2 – I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was also like harpists playing on their harps. (HCSB)
I heard a sound from heaven
John sees the Lamb and the 144,000 together on Mount Zion. Then, he writes, “I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was also like harpists playing on their harps” (v. 2).
Several times in Revelation we are confronted with either the sound of waterfalls or of thunders. When these sounds are heard in heaven they result in worship and praise, but when they are directed to activities on earth these sounds seem to herald God’s judgment. Observe:
Rev. 1:15 – “His voice [was] like the sound of cascading waters.” This is the voice of Jesus, which, along with His appearance, causes John to fall at His feet as a dead man.
Rev. 4:5 – “Flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder came from the throne …” This is accompanied by the worship of four living creatures who never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming” (v. 8).
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.
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. on Mount Zion stood the Lamb
There stood the Lamb on Mount Zion
John writes in verse 1 that he sees the Lamb standing on Mount Zion. The identity of the Lamb clearly is Jesus, as we know from other scriptures. In John 1:29, John the Baptist declares, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Seven verses later he tells two of his disciples, “Look! The Lamb of God!” Every faithful Jew would know the significance of this cry. Jesus is the fulfillment of every precious, beloved lamb slain as a sacrifice to God under the Old Covenant.
In a message at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington, England, Aug. 25, 1889, Charles Haddon Spurgeon reminds his congregation that the Lamb of God is seen first in the lamb for one man as Abel offers up a more excellent sacrifice than his brother Cain. Next, there is the lamb for the family as portrayed in the Passover. Then there is the lamb for the people – two young lambs sacrificed every day for the children of Israel. We then see the Lamb for the whole world – the Lamb John beholds, who takes away the sin of the world.
Spurgeon declares, “There was nothing of greater wonder ever seen than that God Himself should provide the Lamb for the burnt offering, that He should provide His only Son out of His very bosom, that He should give the delight of His heart to die for us. Well may we behold this great wonder. Angels admire and marvel at this mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh; they have never left off wondering and adoring the grace of God that gave Jesus to be the Sacrifice for guilty men” (www.spurgeon.org/sermons/2329.htm).
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. 2I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was also like harpists playing on their harps. 3They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, but no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4These 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)
In Revelation 7 we are introduced to 144,000 “slaves of our God … sealed from every tribe of the Israelites.” Now, we encounter 144,000 standing with the Lamb on the Mount Zion. They sing a new song that only they can learn in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders. They are described as ones “not defiled with women,” who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” They are redeemed from the earth as the “firstfruits for God and the Lamb,” and “they are blameless.”
Many questions arise as we read this passage:
- Who are these 144,000?
- Are they the same 144,000 we encounter in chapter 7?
- Is this number to be taken literally or figuratively?
- What is the new song that only they can learn?
- Is their virginity a reference to sexual purity, or does it mean something else?
- In what way are they “firstfruits” for God and the Lamb?
- And does their blamelessness mean they do not sin?
The identity of the 144,000 – here in Revelation 14 and in Revelation 7 – is a matter of much debate. Whether we can know with certainty who these redeemed people are depends in part on our willingness to challenge our preconceived notions and let the Scripture speak for itself. We must consider the genre of Revelation, the historical context, the meaning of key words and phrases, and the importance of numbers in Revelation. We also need to be willing to go as far as scripture takes us, but no further. With these cautions in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into these verses.
Next: There on Mount Zion stood the Lamb – Revelation 14:1
Rev. 13:3 – One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded, but his fatal wound was healed. The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast. (HCSB)
One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded
John writes of the beast, “One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded, but his fatal wound was healed. The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast” (v. 3). Commentators offer numerous explanations as to who or what the “head” is and the nature of the deadly wound. Here are two widely accepted possibilities:
Some see the deadly wound as the destruction of the “pagan” Roman Empire by the “Christian” Roman Empire, thus making this a prophecy now fulfilled in history. The “healing” of the pagan empire would either be the emergence of a corrupt form of Christianity in the papal church or the actual revival of the Roman Empire in the last days.
Others view this passage as a yet-future event in which the Antichrist receives an apparently fatal wound that Satan miraculously heals. It does not appear that Satan has the power to raise the dead – although God could permit it – but he may very well be granted the power to heal a serious wound. “The important point is that the final world ruler comes into power obviously supported by a supernatural and miraculous deliverance by Satan himself” (J.F. Walvoord and R.B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Rev. 13:3).