"HaShem thy G-d is in the midst of you (plural: ethnic Israel), A Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you (plural) with great joy, He will engrave His love upon you, He will rejoice over you (plural) with singing.” –Zephaniah 3:17
14:1 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
The phrase, “Then I looked”, makes a clear distinction between the previous vision and the present one. While a number of metaphorical terms are used in this vision, there is also a sense of the literal and a physical connection between the Lamb and the land.
Because so many claim that the Mt Zion in question is the heavenly mountain, it’s important to note the reasons why it may not be. First, whenever Yochanan refers to the heavenly location he says “in the heavens” (4:1; 8:1), here however he simply says, “I looked and behold”, due to the lack of further qualification it’s more natural to read this as taking place on earth. Second, elsewhere in Revelation, when referring to Messiah as the Lamb in the heavens, Yochanan qualifies the position of the Messiah by using terms such as, “At the centre of the throne (5:6; 7:17), and, coming down from heaven (10:1)”. In fact, the heavens aren’t mentioned until verse 2 of the present chapter, where a counterpoint to the present location is used to show the persons of the G-d-head in conversation. Finally, the 144,000 are representative of restored ethnic Israel who had received the seal of G-d for their protection on earth (7:1-8), they have not yet died, but are being protected on earth because they bear the name of the Father and the Son on their foreheads, the seal of their salvation, security and identity.
It’s significant that the Lamb is seen, “standing” on Mt Zion. This is a prophetic indication of Messiah’s descent to the Mount from which He ascended. At the time of His ascension the messengers who appeared to the talmidim (disciples) said, “You will see Him return in the same way that you’ve seen Him go” (Acts 1:11).
The apocryphal Jewish writings of 4 Ezra say something similar concerning the coming of the Messiah:
“Whom the Most High is keeping many ages and by whom He will deliver His creation (i.e. the Messiah) will stand on the summit of Mount Zion. Yes, Zion shall come and be seen by everyone, prepared and built, just as you saw the mountain cut out without hands. But he, My Son, will reprove the nations who have come, for their ungodliness.” –4 Ezra 13:26, 36-37
The unity of the G-d-head is written in the first verse in order to lay a foundation for the remainder of the vision. The Son (Lamb), The Father (Name) and the Spirit (Seal: Ephesians 1:13) are the present authority over the 144,000 (representing righteous ethnic Israel). A correlation can be made here between the seal of the forehead and the Tefilin shel Rosh (Prayer box of the head): this prayer box contains key texts of the Torah and is therefore a symbol of the Messiah as the Word of G-d, and of His authority over the life of the believer. This allusion to the G-d-head is illuminated further by the sevenfold Spirit of G-d represented in the seven messengers of verses 6-20. In fact the entire chapter conveys a conversation between the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the Sevenfold Spirit of G-d. In other words, “They” have a conversation within the G-d-head (One: Echad) concerning the redeemed, future punishment, the perseverance of the set apart ones, the harvests and the judgement
These 144,000 are the same ethnic Jews mentioned in Revelation 7:4, metaphorically representing the righteous remnant of the Jewish people.
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they sing a new song in the face of the throne and in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the land (Eretz Israel).
The seemingly contradictory use of the singular, “voice” and the plural, “they” is easily explained given the prior reference to the unity of the G-d-head (v.1). Each of the metaphorical phrases that begin this verse are references to the voice of G-d (Ezekiel 43:2; Revelation 1:15; Job 37:5; Psalm 104:7; Jeremiah 10:13; 1 Samuel 16:23), thus G-d the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (they), sing a new song. We must note that the voice (Hebrew: Kol, meaning voice, sound etc.) was, “like” the sound of harpists. Therefore the, “they” doesn’t refer to harpists but to the voice that sounds like harpists.
Therefore the G-d-Head (They) sing the new song. The song is sung in the face or presence of the throne in the same way that Yeshua the Lamb is present within the G-d-head before the throne. G-d being outside of all things is also present within all things. Notice that while the elders are present, they can’t learn the song; it’s an intimate song between the G-d-head and redeemed ethnic Israel (144,000). Only G-d and the 144,000 can learn this special song.
Some find it difficult to see G-d as a singer. The following scripture is an illuminating and inspiring example of the reality of G-d’s ability to sing. It is in fact G-d Who created music for our enjoyment.
“HaShem thy G-d is in the midst of you (plural: ethnic Israel), A Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you (plural) with great joy, He will engrave His love upon you, He will rejoice over you (plural) with singing.” –Zephaniah 3:17
Only the redeemed Jewish believers are able to learn this song. The song seems to be connected to their being purchased from the land, like the songs of Moses and Miriyam it’s a song of victory, redemption and praise. A song sung by the Messiah to His Jewish brethren, who in return sing it back to the Father, the Son within each of them crying, “Abba” by the Ruach ha-kodesh (Holy Spirit).
4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among humanity as first fruits to G-d and to the Lamb. 5 And no guile was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
The metaphorical language regarding purity (who have not been defiled with women) can be
understood as referring to the fact that this redeemed remnant have not defiled themselves by
whoring after other gods. Fornication is a common biblical metaphor for idolatry (Ezekiel 16, 23;
Hosea 1-5). This is in stark contrast to verse 8, where Babylon’s idolatry is likened to whoring.
These Jews have been purchased separately from the remainder of humanity, this is why they alone
are able to learn the song. They are, “blameless” not in the sense that they are without sin, “for all
have sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d” (Romans 3:23), but in the sense that their heart
motivation is to keep G-d’s Instruction (Torah) and follow the Lamb diligently. We should take pause
to consider what it means to follow the Lamb wherever He goes, this is the devoted action of one
who is enamoured with the Messiah. May we all emulate this type of devoted love! What a beautiful
paradox, we are sheep being led by a Lamb Who is our shepherd.
Some have suggested that Revelation 14:1-5 is describing 144,000 male Jewish infants. As proof they
site the fact that the 144,000 are “virgins” (Rev 14:4), who “have never spoken a lie” (Rev 14:5).
However a closer look at the text of Revelation 14 proves these assertions to be untenable.
“These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among humanity, being the first fruits unto G-d and to the Lamb. And in their mouths was found no guile (dolos: trickery, deceit, guile, subtlety): for they are blameless before the throne of God.” –Revelation 14:4-5
We can agree that these 144,000 are virgins. However this isn’t evidence of infancy. My wife and I
were virgins when we married at 21 and 22 years of age respectively. Furthermore, Jewish tradition
required virginity prior to marriage and no ancient Jewish marriage took place prior to Bar Mitzvah
age (12 years). Therefore the fact that they are virgins is not valid proof.
The second proof offered, that of there having been, “No lie found in their mouths” is simply a
mistranslation and a misunderstanding of what being blameless before G-d actually means in
Biblical terms. The Greek word, “dolos” which is often translated as, “lie” has a wealth of greater
meaning that is better suited to the context. It can mean, “Trickery, deceit, guile, subtlety”. The
better translation follows the same usage as John 1:47 and should read:
“And in their mouths was found no guile (dolos) for they are blameless before the throne of God.”
Neither being devoid of guile nor being blameless are proof of infancy. Nathaniel was without guile
and yet an adult (John 1:47) and both Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, the parents of Yochanan the
Immerser, are called blameless (Luke 1:6). This is clearly not intended to infer that they’re sinless, for
we are vulnerable to sin from our conception, which is the point at which conscious life begins for
every human being (Psalm 51:6; Isaiah 49:1; Hosea 12:3; Luke 1:41-44).
“For all (not some) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d.” –Romans 3:23
Therefore there is no reason to believe that these 144,000 Jewish males are infants.
The number 144,000 is perfectly rounded and like many other numbers in the Tanakh (OT) it has a
symbolic rather than literal meaning. There are 12 tribes and 10 Instructions (commandments) upon
which Judaism finds it’s ethnic and spiritual foundation in G-d. In addition the 12 tribes are
represented in the 12 talmidim (disciples) of Yeshua. 12 squared equals 144 and 10 cubed (unity of
G-d 3 as echad/one) equals 1000: therefore the fulfilled nation of Israel multiplied by the fulfilled
Instruction of G-d equals the redemption of ethnic Israel and the resurrection of all humanity unto
judgement. 144 x 1000 = 144,000. The number of Jews sealed therefore, is a symbolic way of saying
what Rav Shaul/Paul the apostle says in Romans 11:25-27.
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brother, so that you may not be conceited: ethnic Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all of ethnic Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion (That is out of the East);
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” –Romans 11:25-27 (Isaiah 59:20, 21; 27:9; Jer. 31:33, 34)
It’s significant that redeemed ethnic Israel is referred to as the “First Fruits” because G-d has continued to perpetuate His redemptive plan for humanity throughout earth’s history, first to the Jew and also to the nations (Romans 1:16). It was to ethnic Israel that G-d gave His covenant promises at Sinai and it was to ethnic Israel that G-d gave His renewed covenant at Shavuot (Pentecost: Acts 2).
Many fail to remember that the New Covenant was not made with the nations but with ethnic Israel.
“’Behold, days are coming,’ declares HaShem, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,’” –Jeremiah 31:31
6 And I saw another messenger flying in mid heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Be in awe of G-d, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
Messiah prophesied that the Gospel would be preached in all the earth (Matthew 24:14), and then the end would come. This messenger heralds the completion of the spread of the Gospel to every nation, tribe, language and people of the earth and then proclaims the hour of G-d’s judgement according to the prophecy of Yeshua.
The word, “Gospel” means, “Good News” or, “True report”. Here the addition of the word, “eternal” ensures that the reader understands that Yeshua’s Gospel which bears the fruit of eternal life is intended. Because in the Hebraic view eternity is a circular or spherical concept and refers to the past, present and future, the Gospel is proclaimed from before the creation of the world and into forever (Romans 16:25). The greatest of mysteries revealed.
The words of the messenger are fearful to those being lost, however, they make perfect sense to those being redeemed. This is a final warning, and a familiar refrain. The phrase, “Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea” reflects the G-d of the beginning.
“For in six days HaShem made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore HaShem blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” –Exodus 20:11
“Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who guards truth forever;” –Psalm 146:6
8 And another messenger, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”
The phrase, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great” combines the prophetic verses of Isaiah 21:9 and Daniel 4:21 and is repeated in Revelation 18:2. Babylon epitomizes humanity’s propensity for evil: from the beginning of the Bible Babel (Genesis 11) is the location of humanity’s first collective attempt to usurp G-d’s authority. Isaiah 14:12-16 depicts the king of Babylon as a stand in for Satan. Whatever our conclusion regarding who Babylon refers to, we must be consistent in applying our interpretation to the other places where she is mentioned: Revelation 16:19; 17:5; 18:2; 10, 21.
Babylon may be meant literally, although Jeremiah prophecies that Babylon’s desolation will be everlasting (Jeremiah 25:12; 50:1-51:64).
Some suggest that Babylon refers to Rome because it was known as the city set on seven hills (17:9) and was the subject of Jewish Apocrypha (2 Baruch 11:1; 67:7). Also, rabbinic writings such as the Midrash Rabbah on Song of Songs 1:6.4 says, “One calls Rome, ‘Babylon”. Rav Yechiel Lichtenstein, when commenting of 1 Peter 5:13, says, “Rome is called, ‘Babylon’ since it’s always described as the worst kingdom.”
Babylon may also refer to the wicked world system seeded by Satan and governed by the beast.
The wine refers to the life blood of idolatry and sin and is pictured here as having caused the nations to become blind drunk in their lust for temporal pleasure and self-deification.
9 Then another messenger, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives its mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of G-d, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy messengers and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Those who have willingly submitted themselves to the beast and received its mark will have added to their idolatrous drunkenness, the wine of G-d’s wrath, which, unlike the watered down wine of idolatry, is poured out in full strength from the cup of G-d’s anger.
The fact that the mark of the beast must be received by those who bear it reflects the spiritual nature of the mark. This is yet another proof of the mark’s non-physical nature, the mark is a mark of the consciousness, a false belief in a false deity that governs the entire being of its willing recipient and consumes the thought pattern of the bearers mind. The mark then is a system of belief, a spiritual assent to idolatry, a type of anti-salvation. This text reminds us again that it is not G-d Who sends people to eternal punishment but it is people who choose to go there.
Note that the punishment and suffering of the wicked happens in the presence of the holy messengers and the Lamb. All things exist in G-d, therefore part of the price of salvation and justice is that G-d will secure a place of punishment (Pit) for Satan and his messengers and the wicked, within Himself for all eternity. This is why it is said that the wicked will be, “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy messengers and in the presence of the Lamb.” We know that this is not a reference to Gehenah because the context denotes the final judgement and uses the Greek terms which convey eternity.
12 Here under these circumstances the set apart ones persevere, those who keep the Torah (Instructions) of G-d and their faith in Yeshua.
In other words, “You may suffer temporarily, at the hands of the evil One for your refusal to worship the beast and receive its mark. You will need perseverance, the Torah (G-d’s word) and your faith in Yeshua will be your strength.”
Perseverance is not the result of human effort but a gift of G-d to the set apart ones (those who have received Messiah’s free gift). Our perseverance is Messiah in us, He can be relied on to give us the strength we need at the appropriate time.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the L-rd from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow with them.”
The phrase, “Blessed are the dead who die in the L-rd” is a familiar New Testament teaching.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from the heavens with a command, with the voice of the archangel and with the shofar of Hashem, and the dead in Messiah will rise first.” –1 Thessalonians 4:16
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Messiah has been raised; and if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Messiah have perished. If we have hoped in Messiah in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” –1 Corinthians 15:16-19
The added phrase, “from now on” infers that those who perish during the reign of the beast will find rest in death due to their being freed from the torment of the beasts reign and their presence in paradise with Yeshua.
The Holy Spirit agrees with the voice of the Father in saying, “so that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow with them.”
The Mishnah says something similar:
“In the hour of a person’s departure, neither silver nor gold nor precious stones nor pearls accompany that one, only Torah and good works.” –Avot 6:9
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.
Verses 14-20 echo Joel 3:9-13 and Isaiah 63:1-6, using grape harvesting and wine pressing as a metaphor for judgement and describing the fury of G-d as He tramples out the blood of the wicked peoples of the earth. Judgement is also symbolized by the harvests of Jeremiah 51:33 and Hosea 6:11.
Yeshua tells a mashal (parable) about the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:39-42) in which two harvest processes are alluded to. First the messengers of HaShem collect the tares which are burned on the fire, then they collect the wheat and bring it into the land owner’s barn. The wheat represents those who are redeemed through Messiah Yeshua and the tares are the wicked who refuse G-d’s mercy. The order of these processes is reversed in the last verses of this chapter, however the effect is the same.
Verse 14 begins with a Messianic reference from Daniel that Yeshua used to describe Himself (Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 14:61-62), “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13). This same title is used in Ezekiel 95 times. It’s interesting to note that Daniel means “Judged by G-d” and Ezekiel means, “Strength of G-d”. The context is illuminated by these names, Yeshua has come in the strength of HaShem to judge the nations with the wrath of G-d. Once again Yeshua is seen with the imagery of the cloud which leads Israel out of bondage and a crown denoting His absolute authority over the earth.
15 And another messenger came out of the temple, shouting out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
The messenger here is an attribute of the sevenfold Spirit of G-d. Therefore Yeshua is not subordinate to the calling out, rather He is in conversation with the Father and one with the messenger.
In Yeshua’s hand is the sickle that will harvest the righteous wheat. The barley (First Fruits) have already been harvested, that is, the 144,000. The remnant of ethnic Israel. Now the earth will be harvested of the righteous among the nations who remain.
Notice that the term, “reap” is used of Yeshua’s action whereas the term, “collected” is used of the action of the messenger in the following verses. Yeshua reaps what He has sown but the messenger with the second sickle collects together what the enemy has sown. The former is gathered into the barn of eternal life, the latter is trampled out in wrath. The former reaps and keeps, the latter collects and throws out (into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth).
17 And another messenger came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.
Yet another attribute of HaShem, a messenger of the sevenfold Spirit of G-d. This time holding the sickle of wrath.
18 Then another messenger, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.”
The last of the sevenfold messengers arrives bringing the fire of judgement born of the sacrifice of Messiah and the prayers of the saints from the incense altar of the heavenly temple. The instruction is given to the Spirit of judgement and the grapes of the lifeblood of the wicked inhabitants of the earth are harvested.
19 So the messenger swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of G-d. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
The grapes are trampled outside the city, correlating with the uncleanness outside the camp of Israel’s wandering and with the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2, 12), whose name means, “YHVH judges”. Also known as the valley of Hinnom (Matthew 5:22) where the human sacrifices of idolaters were made and the perpetual burning of refuse desecrated the land.
The graphic description of blood flowing 6 feet high for 200 miles alludes to the all-encompassing judgement of G-d. There will be nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.
The Midrash Rabbah sites a similar judgement following the Bar Kosiba revolt (135 CE):
“They (The Romans under Hadrian) slew the inhabitants (of Betar, after Bar Kosiba, its defender, had been killed) until the horses waded in blood up to the nostrils, and the blood rolled along stones of the size of forty se’ah and flowed into the sea a distance of four miles.” –Lamentations Rabah 2:2:4
© Alastair Brown 2015