Rev. 15:1 – Then I saw another great and awe-inspiring sign in heaven: seven angels with the seven last plagues, for with them, God’s wrath will be completed. (HCSB)
This chapter describes the preparation in heaven for the final set of judgments. Seven angels emerge from the “tabernacle of testimony.” They are dressed in clean, bright linen with gold sashes around their chests. One of the four living creatures gives each of the seven angels a bowl “filled with the wrath of God.” John informs us that with these final judgments “God’s wrath will be completed.”
John also views something like a sea of glass mixed with fire. Standing on the sea are those who have won victory over the beast. They have harps and sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. The sanctuary is filled with smoke from God’s glory, and no one may enter until the last seven judgments are complete.
Why are these judgments depicted as bowls filled with God’s wrath? Why does one of the four living creatures give the bowls to the angels? What is the sea of glass mixed with fire? Why are the people standing on the sea and holding harps? What are the songs of Moses and the Lamb? Why is there a sanctuary in heaven, and why is it filled with smoke?
Let’s search for answers.
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.