Only the Saints Know the Song
We have seen that things on earth look bleak for the saints. It was this way in John’s time, it is this way for believers in many countries today, and it has been this way for Christians during all the time in between. This world is not our home; it was never meant to be. The saints look for an enduring city—the City of God.
So after showing us the dragon marching over the earth to make war with the saints and calling his beasts to aid in their destruction, John turns again to see a very different vision—one of comfort to Christians in the midst of persecution, showing them the beautiful scene which awaits them. John sees the Lamb and the 144,000 of chapter seven standing on Mount Zion—the symbol for the heavenly Jerusalem. They are there because they were sealed in their foreheads with both the Father’s name and the Lamb’s indicating God’s ownership and protection over them. Note that this number of superb completion stands in contrast to the number of “complete incompletion” that represents the devil’s followers in the passage preceding. They sing a song which only they (the redeemed from every tribe and nation through all time) know which John has a hard time describing: the roar of waters, the sound of thunder, the sound of many harps. And they sing this song before the cherubim and the elders and, presumably, the Father and the Lamb. It is, no doubt, a song of the loudest and sweetest praise ever sung. It is the song reserved for the redeemed to sing one day to the glory of God for their deliverance and salvation.
As we have already said that the 144,000 represent all the saints over all ages, and as Revelation is such a symbolic book, we cannot understand these 144,000 as different from the first and as singing in heaven because they have “not defiled themselves with women.” Though celibacy for Christ’s sake is honored in Scripture, it is honored no more than marriage. Virginity in the Bible is often symbolic for purity. Israel is called, “the virgin daughter for Zion” (2 Kings 19:21; Lamentations 2:13), and the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2). The purity of these came not of themselves but of the sacrifice of Christ. And as the Church is Christ’s bride, we must see the metaphor as these who with God’s help kept themselves from compromising with the beast—the pagan world system which tried to seduce them to harlotry (NICNT, 270). In contrast to the disciples of the beast, they have followed the Lamb even to death and as such have become the “firstfruits,” the offering of the harvest to God. And I must add that I have never seen the word, “secondfruits,” in any part of Scripture. Finally, John describes their purity saying, “In their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.” See how purity of heart is reflected in our speech!
These are the 144,000—the redeemed who struggle with the beast and, we should add, their own sin and temptations. And they will one day conquer, but only through the Lamb that was slain, and only by being slain themselves to the world, the flesh, and the devil. But they shall rise to sing a new song only they know. Time is fleeting. I think I hear them tuning up.