And I looked, and, see, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand…
I. WHO ARE THESE 144,000? They are the identical 144,000 sealed ones spoken of in chapter 7., with only this difference, that there we see them in their earthly relations and peculiar consecration; and here we see them with their earthly career finished, and in the enjoyment of the heavenly award for their faithfulness.
II. WHAT ARE THE CHIEF MARKS OR CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE 144,000?
1. The first and foremost is that of a true and conspicuous confession. They have the name of the Lamb and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. This is their public mark as against the mark of the worshippers of the Beast. There is nothing more honourable in God's sight than truth and faithfulness of confession.
2. Another particular is their unworldliness. Whilst most people in their day "dwell upon the earth," sit down upon it as their rest and choice, derive their chief comfort from it, these are "redeemed from the earth" — withdrawn from it, bought away by the heavenly promises and the Divine grace to live above it, independent of it. They are quite severed from the world in heart and life.
3. A third point is their pureness. "They are virgins," in that they have lived chaste lives, both as to their faithfulness to God in their religion, and as to their pureness from all bodily lewdness.
4. A further quality is their truthfulness. "In their mouth was not found what is false." These people were truthful in speech, had also a higher truthfulness. They have the true faith; they hold to it with a true heart; they exemplify it by a true manner of life. They are the children of truth in the midst of a world of untruth.
III. WHAT, THEN, IS THEIR REWARD?
1. Taking the last particular first, they stand approved, justified, and accepted before God. "They are blameless." To stand before God approved and blameless from the midst of a condemned world — a world given over to the powers of perdition by reason of its unbelief and sins, is an achievement of grace and faithfulness in which there may well be mighty exultation.
2. In the next place, they have a song which is peculiarly and exclusively their own. Though not connected with the throne, as the Living Ones, nor crowned and seated as the Elders, they have a ground and subject of joy and praise which neither the Living Ones nor the Elders have; nor is any one able to enter into that song except the 144,000. None others ever fulfil just such a mission, as none others are ever sealed with the seal of the living God in the same way in which they were sealed. They have a distinction and glory, a joy and blessedness, after all, in which none but themselves can ever share.
3. They stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion. To be "with the Lamb," as over against being with the Beast, is a perfection of blessing which no language can describe. It is redemption. It is victory. It is eternal security and glory. To be with the Lamb "on Mount Zion" is a more special position and relation. Glorious things are spoken of Jerusalem which have never yet been fulfilled. On His holy hill of Zion God hath said that He will set up His King, even His Son, who shall rule all the nations (Psalm 2.). The Lamb is yet to take possession of the city where He was crucified, there to fulfil what was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin over His head when He died. And when that once comes to pass, these 144,000 are with Him, His near and particular associates in that particular relation and administration.
4. They are "a firstfruit to God and to the Lamb," not the firstfruit of all the saved, for the Living Ones and the Elders are in heavenly place and glory above and before them; but a firstfruit of another and particular harvest; the firstfruit from the Jewish field, in that new beginning with the Israelitish people for their fathers' sakes, which is to follow the ending of the present "times of the Gentiles." They are brought to the confession of Christ, and sealed in their foreheads with the name of both the Father and the Son, during the time that the rest of their blood-kin are covenanting with and honouring the Antichrist as Messiah.
IV. WHAT, NOW, OF THE ANGEL-MESSAGES?
1. The first message. That an angel is the preacher here is proof positive that the present dispensation is then past and changed. It is no longer the meek and entreating voice, beseeching men to be reconciled to God, but a great thunder from the sky, demanding of the nations to fear the God, as over against the false god whom they were adoring — to give glory to Him, instead of the infamous Beast whom they were glorifying — to worship the Maker of all things, as against the worship of him who can do no more than play his hellish tricks with the things that are made; and all this on the instant, for the reason that "the hour of judgment is come."
2. The second message. With the hour of judgment comes the work of judgment. A colossal system of harlotry and corruption holds dominion over the nations. God has allowed it for the punishment of those who would not have Christ for their Lord, but now He will not allow it longer. Therefore another angel comes with the proclamation: "Fallen, fallen, the great Babylon," etc. The announcement is by anticipation as on the very eve of accomplishment, and as surely now to be fulfilled. The particulars are given in chapter 17. and 18. There also the explanation of the object of this announcement is given. It is mercy still struggling in the toils of judgment, if that by any means some may yet be snatched from the opening jaws of hell; for there the further word is, "Come out of her, My people," etc.
3. The third message. And for the still more potent enforcement of this call a third angel appears, preaching and crying with a great voice, that whosoever is found worshipping the Beast and his image, or has the Beast's mark on his forehead or on his hand, even he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is mingled without dilution in the cup of His anger, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the angels and in the presence of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment ascends to the ages of ages, and they have no rest day and night! It is an awful commination; but these are times of awful guilt, infatuation, and wickedness. And when men are in such dangers, marching direct into the mouth of such a terrible perdition, it is a great mercy in God to make proclamation of it with all the force of an angel's eloquence. The same is also for the wronged and suffering ones who feel the power of these terrible oppressors. It tells them how their awful griefs shall be avenged on their hellish persecutors.
4. The fourth message. There is no suffering for any class of God's people in any age like the sufferings of those who remain faithful to God during the reign of the Antichrist. Here, at this particular time and juncture, is the patience or endurance of them that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. To come out of Babylon, and to stand aloof from its horrible harlotries, is a costly thing. Therefore there is another proclamation from heaven for their special strengthening and consolation. Whether this word is also from an angel we are not told; but it is a message from glory and from God. And it is a sweet and blessed message. It is a message which John is specially commanded to write, that it may be in the minds and hearts of God's people of every age, and take away all fear from those who in this evil time are called to lay down their lives because they will not worship Antichrist. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth." And when violence, cruelty, and slaughter are the consequence of a life of truth and purity, the sooner it is over the greater the beatitude.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.