The Defense and Translation of God’s Saints
God’s people had no need to defend themselves. John could see what was not visible to mortal eyes--the Lamb, Christ Himself and the 144,000 with Him, standing on (or just above, (1) in the air) Mount Zion. Christ was ready to remove them instantly from the power of Antichrist and the False Prophet as soon as it was in God’s plan to end their keen sufferings. The case was just as in the day Jesus Himself was arrested. When Peter would have defended his Master with his sword, Jesus said, sternly, “Put up thy sword into its place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
Then, He said to Peter, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then, shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” So it will be in the days of Antichrist. Certain Scriptures are to be fulfilled, but rescue will come in the very instant all has been fulfilled. A Roman legion in Christ’s day numbered about 6,000. More than 72,000 angels were hovering about Him to defend Him.
Also, twice 72,000 (144,000) will defend God’s servants from Antichrist; and the King of Kings will be their Captain. This thought should abundantly comfort those called upon to stand defenseless as far as visible arms can be seen in the presence of the persecuting False Prophet when Antichrist is ruling on earth. Nothing can overtake them but what their heavenly Father permits.
The account tells us these 144,000 are uncommonly holy men, who had never been mixed up with any uncleanness when they were on earth before translation (14:4). Also, they are Christ’s own special attendants, for they “follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth,” and they are also “firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth is no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
God taught the children of Israel many lessons by means of the Temple services, especially as related to future events of importance for them to know.
He established feasts and fasts for them to celebrate. Three times a year every Hebrew male had to go up to Jerusalem to attend feasts. A clear account of these requirements is given in Deuteronomy 16.
(1) The feast of the Passover and of Unleavened Bread lasted eight days. Women often attended, but no explicit mention is made they were expected. At this feast, the first firstfruits offering was made which consisted of a sheaf of grain (Lev. 23:10).
(2) The Feast of Weeks lasted one week. It was later called the Feast of Pentecost because it came just fifty days later. On the fiftieth day after
the first firstfruits offering of a sheaf of grain, a second firstfruits offering was made, consisting of two leavened loaves of wheat bread (Lev. 23:17). This second feast anticipated women would be present as far as possible. (Deut. 16:11).
(3) Again, the women were expected to attend, as far as possible, the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the civil year (Deuteronomy 16:14). This feast celebrated the ingathering of all the harvest fruits and lasted seven days. The people spent their time in booths made of branches of trees, etc. It was also called The Feast of Tabernacles, and celebrated the wilderness life of the children of Israel (Lev. 23:39-43).
All three of these feasts had to do with harvest times. Other feasts were also celebrated--the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Purim, The Feast of Dedication and the Day of Atonement. Now, we are interested only in the three feasts which had to do with harvesting in the signs and visions John describes. This harvesting of the world will follow the outline laid down by the feasts appointed by God and to be celebrated by the Israelites.
In Revelation 14:4, the 144,000 with the Lamb are stationed somewhere in the air above Mount Zion, “were redeemed from among men, being a (not “the” as translated) firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb.” These, then, answer to the first firstfruits. They are “from among men” because they are scattered Jews gathered from every part of the world. With no women expected to be present, this offering is of men and is represented in Revelation 12:5 as a man-child.
In his Introduction to the Holy Scriptures, the learned Dr. Horne tells us how a number of priests would go into the fields and reap a handful of the first-ripe grain at the beginning of harvest time before any grain had been reaped . “These, attended by great crowds of people, went out of one of the gates of Jerusalem into the neighboring cornfields. The firstfruits thus reaped were carried with great pomp and universal rejoicing through the streets of Jerusalem to the Temple . . . These firstfruits, or a handful of the first-ripe grain, gave notice to all who beheld them that the general harvest would soon be gathered in.” This early presentation of a mere handful of grain as contrasted with a later presentation of two loaves of bread baked from the newly reaped, winnowed and ground grains of wheat prefigured the translation and presentation before God’s throne of the 144,000 Israelites, as contrasted with a latter translation of the general Christian body made up of both Jew and Gentile saints (Revelation15).
Again, let me say that probably no mortal eyes saw the Lamb and the 144,000. Had God’s tried people, whom the False Prophet was threatening with death if they did not worship Antichrist, seen these holy defenders, they would not have needed the warning which is now sounded: “I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation and kindred, and tongue, and people” (14:6). John still had his eye on events around and in Jerusalem, but he knows this message goes to the ends of the earth. “Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him (not to Antichrist), for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (14:7). Again, we do not suppose this angel was seen by mortal eyes. It probably means that at this time God’s people everywhere the world over are stirred by this heaven-sent messenger to give this warning.
Next, a warning goes forth as to the morally fallen state of Babylon or Jerusalem under Antichrist as we shall show presently. Then, a third message follows: “If anyone worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is poured out (chapter 16 pictures this wrath) without mixture (not mingled with mercy) into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” (14:10). This statement means in the presence of the seven wrath-angels, who pour out the vials of God’s wrath a little later.
In Revelation 6:16-17, the period is described as the time of the “wrath of the Lamb.” “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (14:12). What it means is, “Here is a chance for God’s people to show how much patience they have and how much faith that God will avenge their wrongs.” From this time, the persecution becomes so terrible for Christians that death is preferable to life: “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord form henceforth,” says a voice from heaven (v. 13). Perhaps it is also meant to encourage Christians to go to martyrdom gladly since God will bless them in some special way just as indeed 20:4 shows that God will. “Yea, that they may rest from their labors; and their works follow with them” (RV, v. 13). They are rewarded for these “labors” by a thousand years of reigning with Jesus on the earth.
When things come to such a pass, we may be sure Christians will not be left to suffer long. And, so it is, for John next sees Jesus, the Son of man coming to earth on a cloud. “On His head a crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.” He comes and reaps the earth. When Jesus was taken up to heaven in a cloud, it was promised, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” And, Paul tells us: “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up . . . in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (I. Thessolonians 4:17). This event takes place when Christ reaps the earth. Next, we shall see these second firstfruits presented to God on the sea of glass before His throne.
1. The preposition translated “on” bears the interpretation “above,” which means the more likely position of the Lamb and the 144,000.