Summary: Yet more "background" of the tribulation period. We once more meet the elect of Israel. Some angels proclaim what is soon to come. And the return of Jesus is now heralded.
Close-up (revisited) :
The 144,000 with Jesus!
Every subject brought up in chapter 14 has been discussed already, or will be given a fuller treatment later. But all these events seem to occur near the end. In terms of the book itself, we are still in between the trumpet and bowl judgments. It seems that we are generally speaking of the days of the seventh trumpet, when all the mysteries of God are being fulfilled. The Spirit is filling in more background pieces before the purely chronological story continues. One could easily suggest that chapter 14 is the least chronological chapter of the entire Revelation.
(14:1) At the opening we are on Mt Zion celebrating the arrival of the 144,000. Here is the completion of what started in chapter 7 with the sealing or saving of these Israelites. Jesus has visited them in the wilderness, protected them from the wrath of Satan who hates them. He has wooed them, and won them to Himself.
Let’s take a closer look at Mt Zion, where they stand. The name means “fortification”, and such it was in the days when it was conquered by David (II Samuel 5:7, II Chronicles 5:2), 1000 years before Jesus entered it on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11). It was a Jebusite fortress on the southeast hill of Jerusalem, says Nelson, op. cit., where the Kidron and Tyropoeon valleys meet. Soon it came to mean not only the fortress but the hill on which the fortress stood. Then the city where the hill was located. Then the people who lived in the city, the children of Israel.
Isaiah in particular loved to speak of Zion, out of which shall go the law (Isaiah 14:32), into which shall flow the ransomed people of God (35:10). The Redeemer Himself will come to Zion (59:20). Zion shall be the source of good tidings for all (40:9) and on and on. Jeremiah mentions it a total of 32 times in his prophecy and his lamentation. Likewise Zechariah and several other prophets. Quite often the prophets speak of the “daughter” of Zion, and most of the time this is merely a synonym for daughter of Jerusalem, or Israel. All three names are found in Zephaniah 3:14.
The statements about Zion in the Gospels and epistles are quotes from these same prophets. The writer of Hebrews (12:22-24) alone stands out as bringing the term to one final stage of development. He sees Zion as God originally saw it, as the place where all the Redeemed, not just the Jewish elect, shall congregate, and in fact do meet even now. The Heavenly Jerusalem. The church. God Himself. This is Zion.
I say all of that to ask, where is Jesus, the Lamb, standing in Revelation 14:1? Is this a scene of Heaven? Then have we just had a rapture of the 144,000 from the wilderness? No Scripture elsewhere would support such a thing. Then has there been yet another Jewish/Christian Holocaust? When the 144,000 named the name of Christ, did they become targets for antichrist and did God have to take his hand of protection off of them, that they might gain a martyr’s crown? Do they have their triumphal entry as did the martyrs of chapter 7? Or is this a picture of earth just after the return of Jesus, as he is surrounded first by his Jewish elect? True, the voice of verse 2 is from Heaven, but is it wafting down to earth, from which the 144,000 were redeemed? Not a necessary point to make, as we have already observed that chapter 14 is out of order chronologically. Zion is a real place. Whether in the heavenly city or old Jerusalem, there is an entity known as Mount Zion.
Other items of interest about this meeting on the mountain:
(14:2) , the voice of many waters we have heard in 1:15, as the Voice of Jesus Himself. The harpers we discussed in 5:8, et al.
(14:3), The singers we have generally identified as the 144,000 Israelites, Jewish in every way. Now more details emerge. First, they have exclusive rights to their own new song of redemption. This seems to be different from the “new song” sung by the four living creatures and the 24 elders of 5:9, though redemption is the theme of both. A third song of Revelation is sung by martyrs mentioned in 15:2-4, probably the same group as in chapter 7.
(14:4), These Jews are virgins. Now there is much talk by the prophets about the “Virgin daughter of Zion”, for example in II Kings 19:21 and Lamentations 2:13. But in each case it is the talk of a father who is speaking by faith about a precious child, and a Father who has the power to transform from the “gutter-most” to the “uttermost”. In experience, Israel had not been a virgin! One could read a “father” interpretation into this passage too, especially coupled to Paul’s words in II Corinthians 11:2 about presenting the church to Christ “as a chaste virgin.” We of the church have been forgiven our non-virgin-like character. God has great plans for His people, to purify us, cleanse us, and make us into the image of His dear Son.