Revelation 14:1-5 (NIV) 1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
On verses 1-5: After his vision in chapter 13 of earth being controlled by Satan the red dragon, the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth, John’s vision switches to heaven where John once again sees the 144,000 whom he saw earlier in Revelation 7. These 144,000 are quite possibly Jewish Christians who came from the 12 tribes of Israel. Here in these verses we learn more about these 144,000 and the role that they play in heaven:
First, the seal that was placed on their foreheads was the name of Jesus and the Father (v1). No wonder Satan, ever the copycat, wanted to place his 666 mark on the foreheads of people in Revelation 13:16-18.
Second, these 144,000 are standing with Jesus on Mount Zion (v1). Whether Mount Zion is a reference to heaven generally or an actual Mount Zion that is a part of heaven is not totally clear.
Third, these 144,000 sing a new song before God’s throne, a song that no one could learn except them (v3). Meanwhile in the background, heaven plays music that is powerful like rushing waters, loud like thunder and yet gentle and soothing like harpists playing (v2).
Fourth, these 144,000 apparently had decided to remain single all their lives and kept their commitment to remain celibate (v4a).
Fifth, these 144,000 were followers of Jesus, “purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb” (v4). The fact that these 144,000 are called “firstfruits” suggests that other people will put their faith in Jesus after them and will also be in heaven, including the great multitude that no one could count in Revelation 7:9.
Sixth, “no lie was found in their mouths; they were blameless” (v5). Washed by the blood of Jesus and marked with God’s name, these 144,000 are found righteous in God’s sight.
Revelation 14:6-7 (NIV) 6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
On verses 6-7: John sees another angel flying and equipped to proclaim the “eternal gospel” to all who live on earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people. In verse 7 this angel loudly calls people to worship God their Creator now that the hour of His judgment has come.
What can we learn from this? If there is one message that God wants to get out to all the world, it is the gospel. It is the message that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that through Jesus we can be forgiven and have an eternal relationship with God as His children.
This gospel is eternal (v6); that is, this gospel is relevant for every period and every era in history. This gospel is for everyone, for “every nation, tribe, language and people” (v6).Finally,this gospel isn’t just for our information, but for our transformation. It is meant to stir us to action, that in response to this gospel we would worship the One who created it all.
Revelation 14:8 (NIV) 8 A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
On verse 8: What is Babylon the Great? Some scholars interpret Babylon the Great to mean the entire system of the world that is bent on rebelling against God. Others interpret Babylon the Great to refer to Rome, which was the most powerful city in the world and which also led the nations in godlessness and immorality. Still others interpret Babylon the Great to refer to a future city that will be the capital city of the anti-Christ’s kingdom. We will look in more detail at “Babylon the Great” later on in Revelation. In any event, when the second angel proclaims that “Fallen is Babylon the Great”, the lesson for us is that God’s kingdom will ultimately prevail over any kingdom that opposes Him, no matter how great.
Revelation 14:9-13 (NIV) 9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, 10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.” 12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. 13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
On verses 9-13: In verses 9-11 a third angel appears and says that there is no rest (v11b) but torment (v10b) for those who worship Satan’s beast and who bear his name (v9-11). On the other hand, there is rest for those who place their trust in Jesus until the end (v13). After the third angel says this, John hears two more important voices speak. The first voice is “a voice from heaven”, which may be God the Father, Jesus the Son or another figure in heaven, saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord now on” (v13). The second voice is the voice of the Holy Spirit who affirms what was just said, saying, “Yes, they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Thus John encourages Christians to hang onto their faith in Jesus to the end, emphasizing the importance of “patient endurance” (v12).
What can we learn from this? Following Satan’s agenda for your life – one that puts God to the side – never leads to rest and peace. True rest and peace come from making Jesus the centre and worshiping Jesus till the end.
Heavenly Father, You want to get the word out about Jesus to the entire world, to every person, every language, and every nation. Strengthen me and use me to proclaim Your message to the people around me who don’t know You yet. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!