Following the Lamb

Following the Lamb[The 144,000] 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. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:1-5)

Description of the 144,000 – What follows is a multi-dimensional description of the 144,000.

Not Defiled by Women – In a literal sense, the Greek word means virgin. However, it could also mean
either unmarried and celibate (no fornication), or married and chaste (no adultery). See 1 Corinthians 7:1–7, 29 and 2 Corinthians 11:2.(1) Jesus (and Paul) recognized celibacy only for those able to receive it (Matthew 19:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:1, 8, 32, 36). At the same time, marriage is approved (not something that defiles) by Paul in 1Timothy 4:3 and by Hebrews 13:4. Furthermore, the New Testament exalts it in numerous places, so this passage in Revelation should not be construed as degrading it.(2)

In a symbolic sense, it could also mean that they have kept themselves pure by refraining from idolatry. This purity is in stark contrast to the idolatry witnessed during this period of the Tribulation, culminating in the ultimate defilement of worshipping the anti-Christ and his image.(3) In the Bible, fornication and adultery are often used to depict idolatry (Exodus 34:15; James 4:4) or turning to an “different Gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4). While many will bow down to the image of the anti-Christ, the 144,000 will remain faithful to God.(4) Thus, John could be calling these followers of the Lamb “blameless” (Revelation 14:5) because they did not “defile themselves” by worshipping the beast. As such, not being “defiled with women” would mean they were not led astray from Christian faithfulness by these tempters who jointly constitute the spiritual “harlot.(5)

Still others see this in a religious sense, meaning they were ritually clean according to the Mosaic laws that governed holy war (see Deuteronomy 23:9–11).(6) It would thus indicate a spiritual readiness for holy war—they have not defiled themselves with the religion of Rome (emperor worship; see Revelation 2:14).(7)

They Follow the Lamb – Living out the Christian life means following Christ as taught in the Gospels (Mark 2:14; 10:21; Luke 9:59; John 1:43; 21:19), and in the Epistles (1 Peter 2:21 and1 John 2:6).(8) As it is used in Revelation, it is an expression of total devotion(9) to Christ, leaving it to Him to lead them into whatever duties and difficulties He pleases.10

Purchased from Among Men – Also translated as redeemed, with an emphasis laid upon the personal worth of these souls. “Redeemed [purchased] from among men” is language derived from the Book of Exodus: “The first-born of my sons I redeem” (Exodus 13:15; 34:20).(11) Marked with their Father’s name, and not the name of the beast, these believing Jews will be spiritually separated and dedicated wholly to Christ. Instead of worshiping the beast as many others will do, they will follow the Lamb. They will become the nucleus of the promised Jewish kingdom, the “first fruits” of the harvest that will follow.(12)

First Fruits – First fruits have many references in the Old Testament. The firstborn male child (Exodus 13:12-15; Numbers 18:15-16), the initial produce of agriculture (Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 23:10; Numbers 15:20-21; Deuteronomy 26:1-11) as well as other food products (Numbers 18:12-13; Deuteronomy 18:4; Ezekiel 44:30), and the first offspring of animals (Exodus 13:12-13; Leviticus 27:26-27; Numbers 18:16-18; Deuteronomy 15:19-23). These firsts are all have a sanctified (set apart) status in the Hebrew Bible (and were also often similarly regarded in other cultures of the ancient Near East).(13)

The firstborn male of humans and beasts in Israel were dedicated to God because he saved them from the slaughter of the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 13:14-15).(14)This plague was brought upon the Egyptians for enslaving Israel, God’s own appointed firstborn (Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 2:3; 31:9), and for refusing to set them free. The firstborn son inherited a double portion of his father’s estate (Deuteronomy 21:15-17; Isa. 61:7), the paternal blessing (Genesis 27), and succession to his father’s authority (Genesis 27:29, 37; 37:21-22; 2 Kings 2:9). The Davidic king is also viewed metaphorically as God’s firstborn (Psalm 89:28), an appellation that the New Testament applies to Jesus (Hebrews 1:6).(13)

The first fruits of agriculture are given to God in religious ritual in acknowledgment of His ownership of the earth (Psalm 24:1).(14) The offering of the first fruits served as an acknowledgment to God for His gracious provision at harvest time (see Exodus 23:16, 19). It communicated thankfulness and a sense of dependency from the person making the offering. It also signified that the entire harvest belonged to God. The people of God are presented in like manner.(15) The term also declares their holiness (Jeremiah 2:3) and perhaps that others like them would come after them.(16) Here it seems to mean that the 144,000 represent only a portion of the great harvest to come (Matthew 9:37), a first installment of those marked for high spiritual service to God and the Lamb (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5).(17)

Since the 144,000 of Israel are referred to as “the first-fruits” (Revelation 14:4), then the rest of “the harvest” (Revelation 14:15) likely refers to the remaining saints (mainly gentiles) who will be harvested by Christ when He separates the tares from the wheat. Those who will reign with Christ will suffer with Him. They will be delivered from judgment, but not necessarily from persecution during the Tribulation.(18) In a larger sense, the whole of the Raptured Church which reigns with Christ at His coming could also be seen as first-fruits (pre-tribulation rapture viewpoint), and the consequent general ingathering of Israel and the nations at the end of the Tribulation period, ending in the last judgment, would then be the full and final harvest.(19)

No Lies, Blameless – “No lie” includes no false doctrine (Revelation 3:9; 1 John 2:22).(20) They were also blameless (a word also used of sacrificial animals without defect).(21) That is, they did not “defile themselves” with the Beast. They are the men and women who have been faithful in their worship of the one true God through Jesus Christ and have not been seduced by the satanic deceptions of the first beast and his ally, the false prophet.(22) They are not absolutely, or in and of themselves blameless, but are regarded as such through the blood of Jesus in whom they place their trust, and who they faithfully serve by the Spirit that is in them.(23)

The great sin of the mankind in that day will be spiritual fornication (Revelation 14:8; James 4:4 and Exodus 34:15). Marked with their Father’s name, and not the name of the Beast, these believing Jews will be spiritually separated and dedicated wholly to Christ. Instead of worshiping the Beast, they follow the Lamb. They will become the nucleus of the Jewish kingdom, the “first fruits” of the harvest to follow.(24)

Up Next – Three angels.

_______________

Reverences

  1. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 533). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  2. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 14:4). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  3. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 284). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  4. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 607). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  5. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 585). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  6. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 14:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  7. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 14:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  8. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 14:4). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  9. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 14:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  10. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2479). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  11. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 284). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  12. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 836). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  13. Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 310). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
  14. Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 310). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
  15. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 14:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  16. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 14:4). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  17. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 14:4). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  18. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 585). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  19. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 585). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  20. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 14:5). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  21. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 964). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  22. Sloan, R. B. (1998). The Revelation. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 676). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  23. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 585). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  24. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 836). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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