Singing the Triumphal New Song
Vision 9—Revelation 14:1-20
Subject: The 144,000 are with the Lamb on Mount Zion; angelic pronouncements sound through the earth; harvests are reaped
Time of fulfillment: 1914 to the great tribulation
HOW refreshing it is to turn to John’s next vision! In contrast with the dragon’s grotesque beastlike organizations, we now see Jehovah’s loyal servants and their activities during the Lord’s day. (Revelation 1:10) Already, Revelation 7:1, 3 has disclosed to us that the four winds of destruction are being held back until all 144,000 of these anointed slaves are sealed. Revelation 12:17 has made known that these “remaining ones of [the woman’s] seed” become the special target of Satan, the dragon, during that time. And Revelation chapter 13 has vividly depicted the political organizations raised up on earth by Satan to bring intense pressure and cruel persecution on Jehovah’s faithful servants. But that archenemy cannot thwart God’s purpose! We will now learn that despite Satan’s malevolent activity, all the 144,000 are triumphantly gathered.
2. What preview of a happy finale does John give us at Revelation 14:1, and who is the Lamb?
2 John, and with him the John class today, is given a preview of that happy outcome: “And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1) As we have seen, this Lamb is the same as the Michael who cleansed the heavens by casting out the Devil and his demons. He is the Michael whom Daniel describes as “standing in behalf of the sons of [God’s] people” as he prepares to “stand up” in executing Jehovah’s righteous judgments. (Daniel 12:1; Revelation 12:7, 9) Since 1914 this self-sacrificing Lamb of God has been standing on Mount Zion as the Messianic King.
3. What is “the Mount Zion” upon which the Lamb and the 144,000 are “standing”?
3 It is just as Jehovah foretold: “I, even I, have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:6; 110:2) This no longer refers to the earthly Mount Zion, the geographical location of earthly Jerusalem, in which city human kings in the line of David used to reign. (1 Chronicles 11:4-7; 2 Chronicles 5:2) No, for Jesus, after his death and resurrection in 33 C.E., was installed as a foundation cornerstone on the heavenly Mount Zion, the celestial location where Jehovah determined to place the “city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” Hence, “the Mount Zion” here represents the exalted position of Jesus and his joint heirs, who make up heavenly Jerusalem, which is the Kingdom. (Hebrews 12:22, 28; Ephesians 3:6) It is the glorious royal situation to which Jehovah elevates them during the Lord’s day. Over the centuries, anointed Christians, as “living stones,” have earnestly looked forward to standing on that heavenly Mount Zion, united with the glorified Lord Jesus Christ in his majestic Kingdom.—1 Peter 2:4-6; Luke 22:28-30; John 14:2, 3.
4. How is it that all the 144,000 are standing on Mount Zion?
4 John sees not only Jesus but the complete body of the 144,000 fellow heirs of the heavenly Kingdom standing upon the Mount Zion. At the time represented by the vision, many, but not all, of the 144,000 are already in heaven. Later in the same vision, John learns that some of the holy ones still have to endure and die faithful. (Revelation 14:12, 13) Evidently, then, some of the 144,000 are still on earth. So how is it that John sees all of them standing with Jesus on Mount Zion?* In that, as members of the congregation of anointed Christians, these have now “approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” (Hebrews 12:22) Like Paul when he was still on earth, they have already—in a spiritual sense—been raised up to be in union with Christ Jesus in heavenly places. (Ephesians 2:5, 6) Additionally, in 1919 they responded to the invitation, “Come on up here,” and in a figurative way “went up into heaven in the cloud.” (Revelation 11:12) In view of these scriptures, we can see that all the 144,000—spiritually speaking—are located on Mount Zion with Jesus Christ.
5. Whose names are written on the foreheads of the 144,000, and what is the significance of each name?
5 The 144,000 have no part with the worshippers of the wild beast, who are marked with the symbolic number 666. (Revelation 13:15-18) In contrast, these loyal ones have the name of God and of the Lamb written on their foreheads. No doubt John, a Jew, saw God’s name in Hebrew lettering, יהוה.* In having the name of Jesus’ Father symbolically written on their foreheads, these sealed ones make known to all that they are Jehovah’s witnesses, His slaves. (Revelation 3:12) Their having Jesus’ name also displayed on their foreheads indicates that they acknowledge being owned by him. He is their betrothed “husband,” and they are his prospective “bride,” “a new creation” serving God with heavenly life in view. (Ephesians 5:22-24; Revelation 21:2, 9; 2 Corinthians 5:17) Their intimate relationship with Jehovah and Jesus Christ affects all their thoughts and actions.
Singing as if a New Song
6. What singing does John hear, and how does he describe it?
6 In harmony with this, John reports: “And I heard a sound out of heaven as the sound of many waters and as the sound of loud thunder; and the sound that I heard was as of singers who accompany themselves on the harp playing on their harps. And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth.” (Revelation 14:2, 3) It is no wonder that John, upon hearing 144,000 voices joined in one melodious chorus, is reminded of roaring waterfalls and pealing thunderclaps. How pleasant that clear harplike accompaniment! (Psalm 81:2) What choir on earth could ever attain to the grandeur of that magnificent chorus?
7 And what is this “new song”? As we noted in discussing Revelation 5:9, 10, the song has to do with Jehovah’s Kingdom purposes and his wonderful provision, through Jesus Christ, for making spiritual Israel “a kingdom and priests to our God.” It is a song of praise to Jehovah publicizing the new things he is accomplishing by means of the Israel of God and in behalf of it. (Galatians 6:16) Members of this spiritual Israel respond to the psalmist’s invitation: “Praise Jah, you people! Sing to Jehovah a new song, his praise in the congregation of loyal ones. Let Israel rejoice in its grand Maker, the sons of Zion—let them be joyful in their King.” (Psalm 149:1, 2) True, those words were written centuries ago, but in our day, they have been sung with new understanding. In 1914 the Messianic Kingdom was born. (Revelation 12:10) In 1919 Jehovah’s people on earth began to announce “the word of the kingdom” with renewed zeal. (Matthew 13:19) Stimulated by the yeartext for 1919 (Isaiah 54:17) and encouraged by their restoration to a spiritual paradise, they began in that year to ‘sing to Jehovah with music in their hearts.’—Ephesians 5:19.
8. Why is it that only the 144,000 are able to learn the new song of Revelation 14:3?
8 Why is it, though, that only the 144,000 are able to learn the song mentioned at Revelation 14:3? Because it has to do with their experiences as chosen heirs of God’s Kingdom. They alone are adopted as sons of God and anointed with holy spirit. They alone are bought from the earth to become part of that heavenly Kingdom, and they alone “will be priests . . . and will rule as kings” with Jesus Christ for a thousand years to bring mankind to perfection. They alone are seen to be “singing as if a new song” in the very presence of Jehovah.* These unique experiences and prospects give them a singular appreciation of the Kingdom and enable them to sing about it in a way that no one else can.—Revelation 20:6; Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 12.
9. How have the great crowd responded to the singing of the anointed ones, and what exhortation have they thus fulfilled?
9 Nevertheless, others listen and respond to their singing. Since 1935 a growing great crowd of other sheep has heard their triumphant song and been moved to join with them in publicizing God’s Kingdom. (John 10:16; Revelation 7:9) True, these newcomers cannot learn to sing exactly the same new song that the future rulers of God’s Kingdom sing. But they too sound a melodious chorus of praise to Jehovah that is an anthem lauding Jehovah for the new things he is accomplishing. They thus fulfill the psalmist’s exhortation: “Sing to Jehovah a new song. Sing to Jehovah, all you people of the earth. Sing to Jehovah, bless his name. From day to day tell the good news of salvation by him. Declare among the nations his glory, among all the peoples his wonderful works. Ascribe to Jehovah, O you families of the peoples, ascribe to Jehovah glory and strength. Say among the nations: ‘Jehovah himself has become king.’”—Psalm 96:1-3, 7, 10; 98:1-9.
10. How is it possible for the 144,000 to sing “before” the symbolic 24 elders?
10 How can the 144,000 sing “before” the elders, since the 24 elders are the 144,000 in their glorious heavenly position? Early in the Lord’s day, those “dead in union with Christ” were resurrected as spirit creatures. Thus, faithful anointed Christians who have conquered are now in heaven, symbolically fulfilling functions comparable to those of 24 divisions of priestly elders. They are included in the vision of Jehovah’s heavenly organization. (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16; 1 Chronicles 24:1-18; Revelation 4:4; 6:11) The remnant of the 144,000 still on earth are therefore singing the new song before, or in the sight of, their resurrected brothers in heaven.
11. Why are the anointed overcomers referred to as the 24 elders as well as the 144,000?
11 At this point we might also ask: Why is it that these anointed overcomers are referred to as the symbolic 24 elders as well as the 144,000? It is because Revelation views this one group from two different standpoints. The 24 elders are always shown in their ultimate position around Jehovah’s throne, installed as kings and priests in the heavens. They symbolize the entire group of 144,000 in their heavenly position, although at present a small remnant of these is still on earth. (Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:5-14; 7:11-13; 11:16-18) Revelation chapter 7, however, focuses on the 144,000 as brought forth from humankind, and it stresses Jehovah’s grand purpose to seal the complete number of individual spiritual Israelites and to grant salvation to an unnumbered great crowd. Revelation chapter 14 provides a picture confirming that the complete Kingdom class of 144,000 individual overcomers will be assembled with the Lamb on Mount Zion. The qualifications to be met in order to be numbered with the 144,000 are also made known, as we shall now see.*
Followers of the Lamb
12. (a) How does John continue his description of the 144,000? (b) In what sense are the 144,000 referred to as virgins?
12 Continuing his description of the 144,000 who are “bought from the earth,” John tells us: “These are the ones that did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins. These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb, and no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.” (Revelation 14:4, 5) The fact that the 144,000 “are virgins” does not mean that members of this class are necessarily unmarried in the flesh. The apostle Paul wrote to Christians who had a heavenly calling that, whereas there are advantages to Christian singleness, marriage is preferable under certain circumstances. (1 Corinthians 7:1, 2, 36, 37) What characterizes this class is a spiritual virginity. They have avoided spiritual adultery with worldly politics and with false religion. (James 4:4; Revelation 17:5) As the betrothed bride of Christ, they have kept themselves pure, “without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation.”—Philippians 2:15.
13. Why are the 144,000 a fitting bride for Jesus Christ, and how do they “keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes”?
13 Additionally, “no falsehood was found in their mouths.” In this, they are like their King, Jesus Christ. As a perfect human, “he committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:21, 22) In being simultaneously without blemish and truthful, the 144,000 are prepared as a chaste bride for Jehovah’s great High Priest. When Jesus was on earth, he invited righthearted ones to follow him. (Mark 8:34; 10:21; John 1:43) Those who responded imitated his way of life and obeyed his teachings. Thus, during their earthly course, they “keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes” as he guides them through Satan’s world.
14. (a) How is it that the 144,000 are “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb”? (b) In what sense are the great crowd also firstfruits?
14 The 144,000 are “bought from the earth,” “bought from among mankind.” They are adopted as sons of God, and after their resurrection, they will no longer be mere flesh-and-blood humans. As mentioned in verse 4, they become the “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” True, back in the first century, Jesus was “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23) But the 144,000 are the “certain firstfruits” of imperfect mankind, purchased by means of Jesus’ sacrifice. (James 1:18) Nevertheless, the ingathering of fruitage from mankind does not end with them. The book of Revelation has already pointed to the harvesting of an unnumbered great crowd that cries with a loud voice: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” This great crowd will survive the great tribulation, and as they continue to be refreshed by “fountains of waters of life,” they will be raised to human perfection on earth. Sometime after the great tribulation, Hades will be emptied, and countless millions of other humans will be resurrected and have the opportunity to drink from those same waters of life. With this in mind, it would be correct to call the great crowd a firstfruits of the other sheep—they are the first to ‘wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb’ with the hope of living forever on earth.—Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, 17; 20:12, 13.
15. What correspondencies are there between the three different firstfruits and the festivals celebrated under the Mosaic Law?
15 These three firstfruits (Jesus Christ, the 144,000, and the great crowd) have interesting correspondencies in the festivals celebrated according to the ancient Mosaic Law. On Nisan 16, during the Festival of Unfermented Cakes, a sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest was offered to Jehovah. (Leviticus 23:6-14) Nisan 16 was the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead. On the 50th day from Nisan 16, in the third month, the Israelites celebrated the festival of the harvest of the first ripe fruits of the wheat harvest. (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:15, 16) This festival came to be called Pentecost (from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth”), and it was at Pentecost 33 C.E. that the first members of the 144,000 were anointed with holy spirit. Finally, in the seventh month when the whole harvest was gathered in, there was the Festival of Booths, a time of joyful thanksgiving when the Israelites dwelt for a week in booths made of, among other things, palm branches. (Leviticus 23:33-43) Correspondingly, the great crowd, who are part of the great ingathering, give thanks before the throne with “palm branches in their hands.”—Revelation 7:9.
Declaring Everlasting Good News
16, 17. (a) John sees an angel flying where, and what proclamation is the angel making? (b) Who are involved in the Kingdom-preaching work, and what experiences indicate this?
16 John next writes: “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, and he had everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying in a loud voice: ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.’” (Revelation 14:6, 7) The angel is flying “in midheaven,” where the birds fly. (Compare Revelation 19:17.) Hence, his voice can be heard around the globe. Of how much greater range than any television news flash is this angel’s worldwide proclamation!
17 Everyone is urged to fear, not the wild beast and its image, but Jehovah, who is incomparably more powerful than any symbolic beast controlled by Satan. Why, Jehovah created heaven and earth, and now the time has come for him to judge the earth! (Compare Genesis 1:1; Revelation 11:18.) When on earth, Jesus prophesied concerning our day: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) The congregation of anointed Christians is fulfilling this commission. (1 Corinthians 9:16; Ephesians 6:15) Revelation here reveals that invisible angels are also involved in this preaching work. How often angelic guidance has been apparent in bringing one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to a home where some distressed soul was yearning, even praying, for spiritual help!
18. According to the angel flying in midheaven, the hour for what has arrived, and who will be making further announcements?
18 As the angel flying in midheaven has declared, the hour for judgment has arrived. What judgment will God now render? Ears will tingle at the announcements now to be made by a second, a third, a fourth, and a fifth angel.—Jeremiah 19:3.
As 1 Corinthians 4:8 shows, anointed Christians do not rule as kings while here on earth. Nevertheless, according to the context at Revelation 14:3, 6, 12, 13, they share in singing the new song by preaching the good news as they endure to the end of their earthly course.
This is supported by the use of Hebrew names in other visions; Jesus is given the Hebrew name “Abaddon” (meaning “Destruction”) and executes judgment at the place “called in Hebrew Har–Magedon.”—Revelation 9:11; 16:16.
The scripture says “as if a new song,” for the song itself was recorded in the prophetic word in ancient times. But there was no one qualified to sing it. Now, with the establishing of the Kingdom and the resurrecting of the holy ones, the realities had burst forth in fulfillment of the prophecies, and it was time to vocalize the song in all its grandeur.
The situation may be compared to that of the faithful and discreet slave that gives food to the domestics at the proper time. (Matthew 24:45) The slave as a body is responsible for supplying the food, but the domestics, the individual members of that body, are sustained by partaking of that spiritual provision. They are the same group but described in different terms—collectively and individually.
[Pictures on page 202, 203]
Coheirs of the Lamb, Christ Jesus, as viewed from two different standpoints