Victory over sin, with harps, in purity
Revelation 14, verses 1 to 5
.Re 14:1 ¶ 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.    Looked ... a Lamb In contrast to the preceding verse, note a.
  Sion Or "Zion." The mountain Jerusalem is on often symbolizes heaven, note b. The first five verses show us the goal. In the rest of the chapter are calls to be ready and the coming of Christ.
  [144,000] We saw them in chapter 7. Go. Is the "great multitude" in this picture? See under verse 2.
.2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:   Voice ... waters ... thunder From an interesting symbol source, note a.
  Harpers harping See note b.
  I've added comments on church celebration and on acceptance. An OT story of when harps were not played helps us understand.
.3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.   New song ... [144,000] Why couldn't others sing it? See note.
.4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.   Not defiled with women That is, with impure churches. See note. The rest of the characteristics are explained on the same page.
.5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.   No guile See note. (on the page with v4)
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14:1 a
Scene of victory

   The righteous were able to stand during the blowing winds of the final time of trouble. Compare re0617.

Look! the Lamb — Contrasts
   We find interesting contrasts between symbols in the victory scene and corresponding ones in the scene of coercion at the end of chapter 13. Let's talk about the first pair. Then you can dig out others. When John looked what did he see? A Lamb standing on mount Zion (or Sion). What is the Lamb's counterpart? The beast from the sea. The Greek word for beast, therion, means "wild animal." Sheep and innocent lambs are domestic animals. Sacrifical animals were domestic.
   If we don't choose to follow the Lamb wherever He goes now, how can we expect to follow Him in heaven? Without His strength we could never do it.

The beast is like the lamb
   At first this seems rather strange. The beast — literally "wild animal," in Greek — hardly seems like a lamb, but there are a number of parallels. Let's look at them and suggest a reason.

Seven parallels between beast and lamb

Both rise out of the water as they begin their influence. The Lamb that takes away sin (John 1:29) and the beast who increases it.
Both exercise power for 3½ years. Christ from His baptism to His death in literal time and the beast for 42 months (13:5) or 3½ symbolic years — 1260 years.
Both are mortally wounded, Christ on the cross and the beast power at the end of the 1260 years 1303a.
Both come back to life, Christ in the resurrection (1:18) and the beast when healed (13:14). 
Both have symbolic horns (5:6; 13:1)
Both are powers which receive worship. (13:8; 5:11-14)
Both have a global mission (13:7; 14:6)
Why did the Holy Spirit impress John to point out these striking similarities? Because the massive end-time religious movement will look very true. Those who do not seek truth and know their Bibles will be deceived. Preachers and popes and commentators like me are not the final authorities! We will all stand in judgment before God whose law is the standard of righteousness.

   What was the purpose of Lucifer in heaven? "For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit." (Isa. 14:13-15).
   The bringing down reflects Satan's being cast out of heaven. We see it also in Revelation 12: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Rev. 12:7-9). In 1202 we see the conflict between the child and the dragon. When the child is taken to heaven the dragon goes after the woman. The conflict between Michael and the dragon in heaven was transferred to earth under symbols of the child and the dragon.
   The dragon's envy of Michael which got him in trouble in heaven, leads him on earth to seek the glory due to Christ.

14:1 b
Standing on the mountain — sealed

     "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 [or "on"] their foreheads." (Rev. 14:1)

   What is meant by standing on Mount Sion [Zion]? Jerusalem is at the top of a small mountain called, Zion. It was the "mountain of the Lord," because His presence was represented there above the ark in the most holly place of the temple.
   "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." (Isa. 2:3)
   ". . . ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels." (Heb: 12:18; also consider Dan. 12:1; Song of S. 2:8)

Calvary to Zion
   The Lamb of God who was slain outside the gates of Jerusalem will one day stand victoriously on the mountain, surrounded by those who have passed through Satan's final attack, sealed and immovable (Rev. 7:1-4; Jer. 17:7, 8). That will be in the heavenly Jerusalem. So the scene here is assurance that those who are willing to sacrifice every earthly support will finally stand with Christ in victory. Their victory will be victory for Him. He died for them and will have sealed them. Their strength to endure to the end will be provided by His strength (Isa. 27:5).
   In dreadful contrast, are those who will prefer the mark of the beast to the seal of God. We will see them described by the third angel in this chapter. The Lamb of Calvary offers to take our burdens. May we turn all we have and are over to Him, living moment by moment in His loving care.

14:1 c
Names on their foreheads

     " . . . and with him [the Lamb] an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads." (Rev. 14:1)

   Next notice that the 144,000 are with the Lamb and they have His Father's name written on their foreheads. In chapter 7 we found the 144,000 sealed on their foreheads to keep them safe when the four angels let loose the winds of strife 0703c. So we may see the Father's name as equivalent to His seal. A seal may be used for preservation. Under the symbol of the Father's name, we learn more about this special gift. Notice, in the quotation from Jesus' prayer before He went to Gethsemane, how He spoke of His Father's name.
   "[Jesus] . . . lifted up His eyes to heaven and said. . . . I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world. . . . While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name. . . .  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. . . . And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17)

Having the name
   So accepting to be among the men and women given to Christ out of the world and accepting the Father's name, means that the Father's love will be in us! God's name is who He is. "God is love" (1 John 4:8). It's His righteous character. It's the pure image in which He created humans (Gen. 1:26) and which has been distorted by sin. Expressed in words, the Father's love in us is His law. (Rom. 13:8; Jer. 31:33).
   "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" (Phil. 2:5)
   "And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. . . . it shall be. And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD." (Ex. 28:36-38)
   What an honor and joy to have that name impressed permanently into our minds!

Translation note
   Instead of "his Father's name" many manuscripts read "His name and His Father's name." I see the reading of the manuscripts from which the KJV was translated as correct here. From Jesus' prayer (John 17 above), we understand His purpose of receiving us to himself and our keeping His Father's name. As with essentially all variances in manuscripts, alternate readings don't interfere with our basic understanding of truth, and even where a passage is unclear, other passages help us understand. 

14:2 a
Voice of water and thunder

    "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:" (Rev. 14:2)

   We first notice that John heard a voice. In verse 1, he looked and saw the Lamb and the 144,000. This hearing and seeing reminds us of other passages like 1:10-12. Even the sense of taste has been used to communicate a divine message (10:9, 1010).

The voice
   What does John say the voice sounded like? It has two characteristics. It was like "many waters" and like a "great thunder." What meaning might we find in the voice being like water and thunder? Of course these sounds express its awesomeness but why those two particular elements? An idea I had, seemed good. I even had verses to back it up. Then, by God's grace, I turned to chapter 19. Verse 6 didn't cooperate with my idea. So I prayerfully went back to study more. I thought all was well, but again needed to modify my interpretation. Let me share how I understand the passage.
   We may expect the speaking of God to reveal His character or His will. But whose voice do we hear? Is it God's or that of the harpers? Our passage does not seem clear. Let's look at the corresponding passage in chapter 19. Then we will return.
    "And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." (Rev. 19:5-7)

   You will recall that two groups were described in chapter 7: the 144,000 and the great multitude. In chapter 14 where we are studying, the 144,000 play their harps and sing. In chapter 19 as quoted above, we hear the multitude. It seems clearer in chapter 19 that the multitude speak with the voice of waters and thunder. It is hence reasonable to assume that the 144,000 in chapter 14 also speak with the voice of waters and thunder. Why then would the voice have been "from heaven"?
   In the middle part of our chapter 14, we will hear three angels giving messages. We will see that their voice from mid-heaven sounds through the voice of human messengers, preaching to the end-time generation. In that pattern, we may understand the voice from heaven as the divine truth spoken by the 144,000. This principle is seen in God's instructions to Ezekiel: "And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious." (Ezek. 2:7).

Waters and thunder
   Now we return to our question of why the voice would be characterized by many waters and great thunder. Our passage at the beginning of chapter 14 is the cry of victory after the supreme threat at the end of chapter 13 to make all the earth receive the beast's mark. In the contrast we see mercy and justice in God's character (2pe0309ff, ps08914). Mercy for the 144,000 redeemed ones and justice for the wicked who tried to force false worship on them — although God exercises both characteristics before both groups.
   Could these two characteristics be seen in the waters and the thunder? Thunder sounds like justice. That would leave the waters to represent mercy. Let's check the thunder idea first, since it seems more obvious. No doubt the most prominent experience in the history of Israel which relates to thunder is God's speaking the ten commandments from Sinai.
   "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders [or "sounds"] and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke [or "all in smoke"], because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. . . . So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them. And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Ex. 19:16 - 20:3; The other nine commandments follow)

Judgment and thunder
   God's law is the basis of His justice in judgment. In sounds of thunder from Sinai He spoke the ten commandments. Later they were written on stone. It is reasonable to see thunder as representing God's justice.

   The first occurrence, in the KJV, of the term "many waters" (Num. 24:7) doesn't help us. Some others do not fit at all. The term in Hebrew is mayim rab, — water(s) much. Although not translated "many waters," the Hebrew words first appear together in Numbers 20:11. Let's look at the story:

   ". . . [The children of Israel] abode in Kadesh. . . . And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! . . . And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? . . . And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
   "And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly [literally, "there came out much water"], and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me [reveal me as holy] in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." (Num. 20:1-12)

Moses and the rock, a significant experience
   This is the outstanding "many waters" ("water . . . abundantly") experience in the history of God's people, the one we expect to be the source of imagery for God's voice in our verse je1013. But does it represent mercy? By striking the rock, Moses spoiled the lesson God intended. What if he had spoken to the rock as he had been instructed?
   This is the second recorded time God sent water from a rock. The first occurred shortly after leaving Egypt. The people had then showed the same lack of faith and blamed Moses. That time God did tell Moses to strike the rock. He promised, "Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb [also called Sinai]; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel." (Ex. 17:6)

Why was it wrong to strike the rock in the second situation?
   To understand, we need to ask what the rock represented. In what we just read, the Lord (Yahweh) said "I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb." He was thus the one being struck. Paul tells us, "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." (1 Cor. 10:4, 1co1001). Was Christ struck? Yes, in His crucifixion (Mark 14:27, mr1427). Did He need to be struck again in order to provide the water of life? No, the sacrifice part of the atonement was complete at the cross (Heb. 9:24-28, he0924). Because of that sacrifice He offers us living water (John 4:10, jn0410). We need only to speak to the rock!
   In this living water, is the mercy of God. When we come to Him in confession and repentance, He forgives our sins (John 6:37 jn0637; Prov. 28:13 pr2813; 1 John 1:9 1jo0109) covering us with the robe of His own righteousness (Isa. 61:10).

   Here in our broader passage (14:1-5), we are taken ahead to see the victory after the terrible trial from the beast and his image at the end of chapter 13.
   In chapter 7 we saw both the 144,000 and the great multitude. Only the 144,000 whom we see here face the coercion of receiving the beast's mark. They will have been sealed in preparation for this final trial. (Rev. 7:1-4) This is consistent with our explanation of those two groups which we identified as (a) the 144,000; the faithful ones living at the end of time and translated at Christ's return without seeing death and (b) the multitude; the "dead in Christ" (1 Thess. 4:16) who are resurrected to meet Him. The whole chapter has an interesting literary structure, 1413g-no.
   Through the words of the apostle John, we see and hear in symbols which help our feeble minds begin to grasp the reality we may soon experience! We need both the mercy and the justice. Only the Lamb of Calvary can keep each of us steadfast so that we may stand around Him on top of the holy mountain (Ps. 24:3)!

Where is the multitude?
   As just mentioned, we encountered the 144,000 in the description of their sealing in chapter 7 0701. The victory of the great multitude in the second half of the chapter was compared with sealing (signifying victory) of the 144,000. Their being counted or numbered was in contrast to the unnumbered multitude 0709. The multitude isn't mentioned here in chapter 14, but we find them in chapter 19 where verses throughout the chapter respond to elements of the scene of the three angels in 14:6-13. And the scene of the multitude in chapter 19 is tied to the voices we hear in our present verse. John heard ". . . the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings. . . ." (19:6). Here is our present verse:
   "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps." (Rev. 14:2)

14:2 b
Why do the harpers harp with harps?

   ". . . and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung [literally, "sing"] as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. (Rev. 14:2b, 3)"

  Why are the 144,000 pictured here harping with harps? Because, in the situation which inspired the symbolism, the harpers, although having harps, refused to play them. Let's read the story and think what it might say about the music of the 144,000. Go to ps13701-6.

   The people at the beginning of Revelation 14 are described in the terms of this situation from the history of God's people. They have survived the captivity of "Babylon," having refused to yield to the coercion of the beast of chapter 13. In the pattern of the captivity, they had longed to go to Jerusalem. Now they are there, standing on Mount Zion. It's time to play their harps again and to sing.

So why did the captives refuse to sing while in Babylon?
   Their response helps us understand more about the 144,000 in Revelation. The captives explain that, under the circumstances, singing would mean forgetting Jerusalem. This seems a little strange because one would expect the songs of Zion to help them remember Jerusalem and to evangelize the Babylonians, as well. Another passage shows the significance of the songs of Zion. This understanding will help us see why singing them in captivity would have been wrong. Then we can see what this means for us who plan to be part of the 144,000.
   "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. . . . And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isa. 35:4-6, 10)

14:2, extra note
   So, again in the symbolism of the captivity, the songs of Zion will be acknowledgment and praise for having arrived at our final destination — the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21). The “ransomed of the Lord” will come to the new Zion where there will be no more blindness, lameness, and deafness — or as John expresses it, no more tears, no more death, “neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4). Do you see? The ransomed ones, who will return to Zion and sing because there is no more sorrow, are the redeemed — the 144,000 standing with the Lamb on the mountain. What does this mean to us? Although citizens of the heavenly kingdom, we have not yet gone there. We are still captives in this present world, so we must leave our harps on the willow trees refusing to play them. How do we do this? What would be wrong with our singing before arriving at Zion? Should we not sing about our heavenly home?
    We should certainly sing, praising God for what He is doing in us and what He will do for us in heaven. The harp playing and singing of the 144,000 are symbolic. We refrain only in the sense that we remember that this world is not our real home. We must still fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 6:10-18) while rejoicing in the confidence that, as our lives are yielded to Christ, we have the assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:13).
   While His coming into our hearts is essential, it is not the end of our redemption. Jesus told Nicodemus, ". . . Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3). The new birth prepares us to see the kingdom of God. It is not actually seeing it in reality.

Should we celebrate in church?
   Sure, if we don't celebrate as already living in glory — as no longer needing to fight the good fight to overcome the sins that keep us from winning the race (1 Tim. 6:12; Heb. 12:1, 2). Jesus told us, ". . . ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." (Matt. 10:22) The endurance is not over till Jesus comes in the clouds or till we die (Rev. 1:7; 22:12; 2 Tim. 4:7). Then we can stand on Mount Zion among the 144,000. Then we can play our harps and sing in celebration!

   A popular misunderstanding of the concept of acceptance leads us to play our harps too soon. We hear first about accepting all kinds of people. This is indeed our duty (John 13:34; Matt. 5:43; Acts 10:28). The idea is, however, extended to mean three things for which I do not find biblical support.
  First, it is urged that we be "accepting" of people in the church who may decorate themselves to their own glory instead of to the glory of God, and people who take things into their bodies that tend to destroy the body temple (Rom 12:1; 1 Cor. 10:31). This idea is tricky because when people come into our midst, it's right that we welcome them eagerly without checking their adornments and giving them a blood test. They have come to the right place to learn more of Christ and His humility. We will love them as Jesus did, whether they accept our ideas or not. The catch is that those who proclaim this open acceptance really mean that self-centered behavior is totally appropriate and that we should not teach people otherwise or hold such standards for church leaders (James 4:17; 1 Tim. 4:12). This would be "bothering" them.
   Not everyone will draw the line between glorifying God and glorifying self in the same place, nor should they.  Paul drew a line so it's proper to have one (1 Tim. 2:9). The matter is appropriate for study. As a person draws closer to Christ, the line becomes clearer. Explaining it more is beyond the purpose of our study.
  The extension of this idea is that God accepts us into the kingdom of glory the way we are, without the necessity of overcoming sin in our lives (See Isa. 59:1, 2; Ezek. 18:4 ez1804; Rev. 2:7 0207; 3:5; 21:27; 22:14, etc.). Again the error sounds like truth. God does accept us as we are (John 6:37, jn0637) like a physician accepts a patient (Mark 2:16, 17; mr0216), but to refuse His work in us as well as His work for us (1 John 1:7-9; 2 Cor. 6:17 2co0617) is to refuse the salvation He offers. At His coming Jesus does not make us without spot and blameless, He finds us that way. (2 Peter 3:14). To be blameless means repenting and receiving forgiveness. To be spotless is to live by God's grace without intentional sin (Col. 2:6).
  Finally, modern acceptance means that all must put aside individual, Bible-based convictions in order to join hands in a mass movement to win the world to Christ (See Joshua 24:15; Luke 13:23, 24; Rev. 12:17; 13:3). It is argued that we have a horizontal responsibility for the spiritual behavior of other people as well as a vertical one toward God. After all, are we not our brother's keeper? I would ask, is legal force to make my brother worship as I do, being his keeper? Cain was angry with Abel because God accepted his sacrifice (Gen. 4). Cain offered garden produce instead of a lamb, considering that good enough. After killing Abel, he implied to God that he was not his brother's keeper while he should have been. Being Abel's keeper would have been respecting his worship and accepting God's judgment. It would not have been forcing Abel to follow his own kind of sacrifice, right or wrong. God Himself did not force Adam and Eve to stay away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! For a book on the topic of acceptance, see on 1sa0748. For Ezekiel's testimony, see ez3330.
   "Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." (Ps. 24:3-5)
     A song I learned as a kid comes to mind:

Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, 
   Heav'nly breezes blow. 
Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, 
   Faces all aglow. 
Turn, turn from sin and doubting, 
   Looking to the sky; 
Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, 
   You and I. 
Now in the public domain
  By God's grace, we may follow the Lamb up the rocky path to the top of Mount Zion.
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