Read verses 1-5
Q: How does this connect overall with what was just presented in the previous chapter?
A: John’s original writing of Revelation contained no verse or chapter markings so we must continually treat Revelation as a whole, uninterrupted work. Having just described the two beasts and the mark of the beast, John is shown a distinct contrast to the Antichrist, False Prophet and their worshipers with the phrase, “Then I looked” to now focus on the opposite extreme: the Lamb and His followers. What John saw regarding the Antichrist in chapter 13 is directly contrasted here in chapter 14 for Christ..
Q: How is this reinforced by v.1?
A: God’s authentic marking is specified as “having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads”, whereas the beast commands everyone “be given a mark on the right hand or on their forehead” (Rev. 13:6) in hopes no one notices the optional counterfeit placement, and likewise takes the form of “either the name of the beast or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:17)
Q: Why are there two different pictures presented of the 144,000 here and in chapter 7?
A: In Revelation 7 we are first presented with an earthly picture, or description, of literal, ethnic Jews selected and sealed by God; here we are given the heavenly, or divine, view that, “These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb”. (v.4)
Q: What is significant about their being identified as “first fruits”?
A: In Old Testament Israel, when making an offering, particularly in relation to the Feast of Weeks, the first and best of the harvest was to be given to God. But this was not simply a one-time event, but represented the first of more to follow. In terms of God reverting in the End Times to complete His work in Israel, these are the first of many more to come from Israel.
Q: How did the Apostle Paul employ the concept of “first fruits” in both a doctrinal and eschatological context?
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
— 1 Corinthians 15:20-24
A: The Resurrection of Christ was but the first and best of many more to follow.
Q: How were these “purchased from the earth”? (v.3)
A: This is another way of describing them as redeemed by the blood of the Lamb—they were purchased through their faith in Christ. The underlying Greek word for “earth” actually describes the physical ground, as in, “The farmer works the earth to produce a crop”. It parallels the Old Testament Law requiring the first and best be presented exclusively to God.
Q: What are the chief characteristics of the redeemed according to v.4-5?
- “...they have kept themselves chaste..." They are free of the sexual immorality that is a chief characteristic of the beast and his followers.
- “...follow the Lamb wherever He goes...” They are not interested in pursuing their own path but only the Master’s will.
- “...no lie was found in their mouth...” They cling to the Truth and nothing but the Truth.
- “...they are blameless.” They have forsaken sin and its influences to such an advanced degree that their natural inclination is to shun and avoid it; in other words, they embrace and live according to His righteousness.
Point: The 144,000 were not exclusively selected based on ethnicity, but by being models of spiritual faithfulness avoiding immoral behavior and relationships. In Scripture, a right or wrong spiritual relationship is most often illustrated by right or wrong earthly relationships.
Q: What might be the meaning of their also being “purchased from among men”? (v.4)
A: It seems to refer to the Old Testament practice of redeeming the firstborn. When Israel came out of Egypt, God had Moses take a census of the firstborn and make a special purchase of them. (Num. 3) Thereafter, the practice of redeeming the firstborn became normative in the Law. In this case they are no longer redeemed according to the Law but the New Covenant with the blood of Christ.
Application: God’s people do not simply resist taking the mark of the beast, but first take God’s mark by following up their redemption by the blood of the Lamb with their changed, faithful behavior.