The 144000 on Mt. Zion
December 16th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
THE ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FOUR THOUSAND ON MOUNT ZION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-16-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. After these many years preaching through the Bible, we have come to the Revelation. And in preaching through the Revelation, these two years now, we have come to chapter 14. And if you would like to turn in your Bible to chapter 14, you can easily follow the message this morning, which is an exposition of the first five verses. And the title of the sermon is The One Hundred Forty-Four Thousand on Mount Zion, and the reading of the text, Revelation 14:1-5:
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads.
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:
And they sang as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures, and before the elders: and no one could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed, purchased, from the earth.
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, were purchased, from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault.
Then a scribe added, "before the throne of God." John wrote it, "And in their mouth was fond no guile: for they are blameless," translated here, "without fault."
This is a beautiful and comforting vision and was given to John and written down in chapter 14 for that purpose, for our encouragement, for our hope. The previous chapter, chapter 13, and the previous chapter, chapter 12, are chapters of darkness and increasing blackness. In these chapters is recounted the wrath and the malice of Satan. These chapters delineate those terrible and fierce monsters, the beasts through whom he wrecks such destruction and terror in the earth. And in those chapters is recounted the herds of those who blaspheme the name of God and who worship the image of the beast.
This chapter, chapter 14, is in another world. It’s in another light. It is as different as the throne of God is different from the depths of the abyss. Chapter 14 is like this. When the tempest has raged, and the terrible powers of heaven seem to be uncontrolled, and the lightning flashes, and the thunder roars, and the rains beat down, and the floods rise, then follows the beauty and peace of a great calm with a bow of promise arched through the skies. That is chapter 14. When the winds are spent, and the thunders are done, and the clouds have emptied and break, beyond is the golden light. That is chapter 14, following chapter 13. You see, God here does not even wait for the details that describe the destruction of this false beast and this false prophet. They are delineated in chapters 17 and 18. But before it comes to pass, the golden rays of God’s presence and promise are already beginning to shine.
And after this dark chapter 13 is this glorious, incomparable vision in chapter 14. Instead of the beast, here is the gentle Lamb. Instead of those who are lusting after the idolatrous image of that ultimate and final Antichrist, here are those who have in their foreheads the mark of God. And instead of the horror, and the terror, and the sickening sight of blood, and waste, and murder, and martyrdom, here is the song that the one hundred forty-four thousand sing, a new song in a new beginning. Here is victory, and light, and hope, and the glory of God.
Now we must remember as we look at the section, we must remember that what we read in chapter 14 is just the other side of what we read in chapter 13. Chapter 14 is the counterpart of chapter 13. Chapter 13 and chapter 14 are congruous in time. They speak of the same period. They follow along in the same story. Just this, that chapter 13 is the waste and the darkness and the blackness of the enemy of God. And chapter 14 is the beauty and glory and light of the hope and promise that we have in our Savior.
In chapter 13 is the terrible beast; in chapter 14 is the beauty and gentleness of the Lamb. In chapter 13 is the spurious and the counterfeit; in chapter 14 is the real and the genuine. In chapter 13 is the dark mark of the beast; in chapter 14 is the mark of the Lamb of God, the Father’s name in the forehead of those who love Jesus. In chapter 13 is delineated those who worship the image of the beast, who lust after idolatry and bow down before graven images; in chapter 14 are these who are pure from the contaminations of the corruptions and the idolatries of the earth. In chapter 13 are those who follow the beast into damnation and perdition; in chapter 14 are those who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. In chapter 13 are those who love this world and whose dwelling place in every vision and dream is located in this terrestrial earth; in chapter 14 are those who are present before the throne of God, who have lifted up their faces in hope to glory. In chapter 13 is the number of the beast, 666; in chapter 14 is the fullness of the plentitude of the number of God, one hundred forty and four thousand. Just the same period of time, the same history, the same course, except one is the darkness of the satanic malice in those who follow after this world, and chapter 14 is the beauty of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
"And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on Mount Zion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads" [Revelation 14:1]. Now we must pause and speak of these one hundred forty and four thousand. Who are they? Well, there are some who say these represent the redeemed of God of all ages. All the sanctified hosts of heaven are represented or symbolized in these one hundred forty and four thousand. Then there are those who say that these one hundred forty-four thousand are the preeminent Christians above the common Christians of just ordinary life, and ministry, and faith, and devotion. These one hundred forty-four thousand represent those stalwart, and remarkable, and unusually gifted souls who have stood up and have risen up like mountains among molehills. These are the unusually great and remarkable among the congregation of God’s sanctified.
Well, there are many, many of course, about as many as there are interpreters, there are many, many suggestions made as to the identity of the one hundred forty-four thousand. Now our identification will come, the best that I can make it, our identification will come from the words of the Scriptures themselves, as we look at this special, and unique, and remarkable group.
First of all in our identification; it says here that these one hundred forty-four thousand sung their new song before the cherubim and before the elders. Well, my first seeking then to identify the one hundred forty-four thousand would be this; that if the group sang before the four and twenty elders, then they are a different group from the elders. The elders who are in heaven and before God, gold crowned, enthroned, seated; they are one somebody. They are one group. They represent something. And in their presence, there sing these one hundred forty and four thousand.
So, I would suppose that they are two different groups; the elders and the one hundred forty-four thousand. That’s one note I see here as I read the text. Then another thing, as I read the text; this is not the first time that we have come in the Revelation to a vision of that one hundred forty and four thousand, for we have met that remarkable number and that unique group in chapter 7.
Now there are many, many, of course, who say that in chapter 7 the one hundred forty-four thousand there is one group, and the one hundred forty-four thousand here are another group. Well, of course, we’ll have to wait until the time of that consummation ultimately to know. But as I look at it, there is no evidence here in the text that he was talking about one group in the one hundred forty-four thousand in chapter 7, and then another group that he calls the one hundred forty-four thousand in chapter 14. But he introduces the groups as though they were the same. He makes no particular distinction between them, that this is one and this is another. Now the number is so unusual, and it is so remarkable, and it is so unique that I would suppose that when he just speaks of them as a group he’s already delineated, I would suppose, that they are the same group.
When I turn back then to the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation, here I read of the one hundred forty-four thousand. "And I heard the number of them which were sealed" [Revelation 7:4], and that’s what I read here in the fourteenth chapter of the Revelation, that they were sealed. They had their Father’s name written in their foreheads [Revelation 14:1].
Now these one hundred forty-four thousand in chapter 7 were sealed: "I heard the number of them which were sealed by the Lord in their foreheads" [Revelation 7:3-4], just like it is here in chapter 14, "and I heard the number and they were sealed, a hundred forty and four thousand: twelve thousand from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand from the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand from the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand from the tribe of Asher, and twelve thousand from each one of the twelve tribes of Israel." And in this vision these one hundred forty-four thousand are one group, and the elders are another group, and the great multitude, and that’s the passage we read in our Scripture this morning, "the great multitude of Gentiles coming out of every nation, and language, and tribe, and kindred, and people, and tongue" is another group. All of those groups are there together in this vision in the Revelation. The elders, the great multitudes coming out of the Gentiles, these one hundred forty-four thousand, and the angelic hosts, and the four cherubim, they’re all described there in the vision together [Revelation 7:9-11].
Now this is what I personally am not able to see. When all of those identifications are made as being just the same, the elders represent the church, let’s say, and the one hundred forty-four thousand represents the church, and the great multitude coming out of the great tribulation represents the church, and the temple represents the church, and the altar represents the church, and all of the identifications are made with the church, then you just wonder; "Well, why have a revelation anyway? If all the things that are in it represent the same thing, and nothing means anything except just one thing, well, then it’s sort of superfluous. It’s sort of beside the point that these things should be delineated."
And the vision is nothing comparable to that. It is nothing like that. It is nothing approaching that. In the vision, all of these groups will appear at the same time. There will be the elders, and there will be the one hundred forty-four thousand, and there will be the great host of Gentiles who are coming out of the great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:13-14]. There will be the one hundred forty-four thousand that were sealed of God. They’ll all be in the same vision. So I would suppose that these are different groups, and they represent different workings of God in the earth, as the Lord brings this history to its ultimate and final consummation.
Now in any interpretation, there has to be somewhat of a consistency. There has to be, let me say it, consistency, period. If a thing means anything, there has to be a consistency in it, as we follow the thing through, because surely what God has done is, if He has made a revelation here in a previous chapter, then He doesn’t undo the revelation in a following chapter, but there will be a continuity in it. There will be a meaning in it and a consistency all the way through.
Now in the elders; to me, the elders represent God’s sanctified of the old and the new eras, dispensations, covenants, testaments. I think there are twenty-four because twelve of them represent the patriarchs of ages, the age of the Old Testament, the twelve of Israel, the twelve of the old dispensation, and the twelve of the new dispensation, the twelve of the Christian era, as the twelve of the apostles. Such you have in the great and beautiful city, there are twelve gate, and they have on them the names of the families of God; and the twelve foundations, there are the apostles and there are the patriarchs, the tribes, the twelve. Well, it is so here in the elders. The elders represent, to me, the resurrected, translated, glorified people of God who have been raised at the coming of our Lord, when the trump shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall be glorified, and they are in heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. They are seated. They are enthroned. They are glorified. They are gold-crowned. The elders represent the people of God who are resurrected and glorified at the coming of our Lord.
Now beyond that coming for our beloved dead and the translation of these who are alive and remain unto the announcement of the Lord, when He comes for His own, beyond that day there is this terrible and awful period of judgment. And these elders before the throne, these elders seated and gold crowned, these elders represent in heaven God’s resurrected saints, God’s glorified saints. These who’ve been saved under the gospel of the Son of God in the New Testament, looking back to the cross; those who were saved by the gospel of the Son of God in the Old Testament, looking forward to the cross. They are represented by the elders.
Now in the presence of the elders are these one hundred forty-four thousand. And they are this unique and separate group that are described here in the seventh chapter of the Revelation, distinct from the Gentile multitude, distinct from the elders who are already enthroned and gold-crowned in the presence of God; these one hundred forty-four thousand especial, remarkable, unique, select, elected group, standing there in the presence of the Lamb on Mount Zion.
Now another thing about them; they are described as being, "the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" [Revelation 14:4]. Now in the identification of the elders, they, with their Lord, are the firstfruits unto God; Christ the firstfruits. Afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming, when the Lord comes and speaks resurrection to the dead in the dust of the ground, and we are translated, changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, at the coming of Christ for His own [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. These are those firstfruits unto God [Revelation 14:4].
Then what are these? These are the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb of a new beginning, of a new era, of a new dispensation, of a new course. These are the first, and in the seventh chapter of the Revelation, before this terrible, and awful, and indescribable period of judgment begins, "before ought happens," says the Lord God, tell those four angels who hold the four winds of the earth, tell them to abate, to cease, to desist, until first we seal the one hundred forty and four thousand [Revelation 7:1-4]. And these are the firstfruits of that new day, that new era, that new beginning that starts at the close of the times of the Gentiles. When God is done with this present administration, when God is done with this present age, when the course of the Gentiles have run out, then comes that great and terrible era of the judgment of Almighty God. And in that era and in that mighty judgment of Go, which is the description found in the Apocalypse, in the Revelation, in that awful time, these are the first who are sealed, called "the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" [Revelation 14:4]. And they are these special, unusual and remarkable representatives of God, and of Christ, who are sealed out of the twelve tribes of Israel.
That is a thing that is found once in a while by implication in the passage such as this. In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says that:
The Lord died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
He was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures:
Then He was seen, having been raised by the power of God from the dead, by Cephas, by the twelve,
By five hundred brethren at once,
Then of James, then once again of all of the apostles,
And then last of all he was seen of me also, as – and the King James translates it – "as of one born out of due time" – ektroma, as of one born in an abortion" – before the time."
What does that mean? To me it means this. That the Lord Christ appeared to the apostle Paul before that great and final day, when He shall appear to these who are His kinsmen, His brethren according to the flesh, the household out of which He came into this world. I think someday the Lord will do for Israel what He did for James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon. He appeared to His brethren personally, and He won His brethren personally to the Lord. Before He went back to heaven, the Lord Christ sought them out, and in their unbelief, He personally appeared to them, and they were won to a faith in Jesus by the personal appearance of the Lord to James and to His brethren according to the flesh. I think the Lord is going to do that some of these days. Israel is going to look upon their elder Brother. Israel is going to look upon Him whom they have pierced [Zechariah 12:10], and a nation is going to be born in a day [Isaiah 66:8].
That is in a new order. That’s in another era. That is in another government. That’s in another dispensation, and Israel someday is going to be saved. As Paul wrote in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, "There shall come a Deliverer out of Zion; and ungodliness shall be turned away from Jacob: and so all Israel shall be saved" [Romans 11:26].
That is the purpose, the elective choice of God for His people; not always to continue in blasphemous unbelief with the veil over their hearts, reading Moses, reading the Prophets, never able to understand, never able to see and to accept their Messiah, their Christ, their Savior. But someday that veil is going to be taken away. And it’s going to come to pass that the Lord will appear to them according to Zechariah. And they’re going to be saved, and they’re going to turn to the Lord. And that’s what Paul referred to when he said, "And last of all He was seen of me also, He appeared to me also, ektroma, as of one born before the time, as an abortion." He appeared to me before that day when normally and naturally He will appear to them." And these one hundred forty-four thousand are that special, and unusual, and remarkable group, sealed of God for an unusual, and remarkable, and unique ministry, who belong to the Lord, called "the firstfruits of God and of the Lamb."
Another thing about them, "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on Mount Zion, and with Him there stood these one hundred forty and four thousand" [Revelation 14:1]. One of the most remarkably rewarding of all the things you could do would be to take a commentary and follow through Mount Zion. One of the most holy and purposively meaningful of all of the revelations of God will concern Mount Zion.
Mount Zion is the name of the royal residence, the city of the great King David. In the messianic Psalm without compare, Psalm 2, when the heathen raids and sought to break the bands of God asunder, the Lord said as He spoke in His wrath, "I have set My king upon My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: Thou art My Son. Ask of Me, I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession" [Psalm 2:6-8].
Then take another one, Psalm number 48: "Great is the Lord" – I wish I had thought to ask you to sing that song today. This is one of the most magnificent anthems in this earth. I have never heard an anthem that is greater than this one, which is the singing of the forty-eighth Psalm. And if you can do it between now and the next service, do it. You can change it, whatever you have scheduled. Do you remember the anthem, as I read this Psalm?
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
God is known in her palaces for a refuge.
As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it forever.
Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.
Walk about Zion, go about her: tell the towers thereof.
Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generations following.
For this God is our God forever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.
[Psalm 48:1-3, 8, 11-14]
Can you sing that in the next service? See if you can. See if you can. Oh, that’s a magnificent thing!
Another Psalm, the one hundred thirty-second Psalm:
The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.
For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation.
This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.
There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for Mine Anointed.
[Psalm 132:11, 13-14, 17]
Then in Isaiah – Oh, I hate to quit! There is so much more in this passage, the second of Isaiah:
It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains.
And people shall come and say, Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He shall judge among the nations, and He shall rebuke those that need rebuking: they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of our Lord.
These passages on Mount Zion, well, this is one of them, "I beheld, and, lo, a Lamb stood on Mount Zion, and with Him that one hundred forty and four thousand" [Revelation 14:1].
Now this is what I think it means it refers to: in chapter 7, the one hundred forty-four thousand are seen as they labor in this earth. That remarkable, and unique, and separated body that God hath sealed; in chapter 7 you seen them preaching the gospel of the Son of God in the earth, calling men in that dark and terrible day to repentance, to faith in Jesus. And out of it, that multitude of nations, and tongues, and peoples, the Gentiles of the earth, the greatest revival the world, the incomparably greatest revival the world’s ever seen will be in that day and in that hour and in that time led by these one hundred forty-four thousand.
Then in the fourteenth chapter of the Revelation, you have their reward. They’re standing now. Their work is finished. Their task is done. They’re standing now in that millennial and heavenly time on the glorified Mount Zion with their Lord, the Lamb of God. And they now receive from God’s own hands the reward of their ministries.
I wanted to preach here for a while on that number. He sealed one hundred forty-four thousand. When it came to the end of the way, there were not one hundred thirty-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine, but there were one hundred forty-four thousand at the end of the way. When God saves us and writes our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, its forever, and forever, and forever, and forever. "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" [John 10:28]; one hundred forty-four thousand at the end of that terrible and indescribable onslaught of the malice of Satan, and the rage of the beast, and the machinations of the false prophet, still one hundred forty-four thousand. Just like God keeps us forever and forever. "Of those that Thou hast given Me," said the Lord, in His great sanctifying holy prayer in the seventeenth of John, "of all those Thou hast given Me, I have lost none, except the son of perdition; that the Scriptures might be fulfilled" [John 17:12]. Oh, the blessing!
On the first note of the first stanza, we sing just one stanza, on the first note of that first stanza, somebody you, come. And let’s not anybody leave until we sing this one stanza. Then all of those who have Sunday school responsibilities will have opportunity to go. But all of us stay here just for this moment. And somebody to give his heart to the Lord, somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song and make this appeal, if God bids you come, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE 144,000 ON MOUNT ZION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The comforting vision of chapter 14
A. Chapter 13 so dark, tragic
1. Satan’s malice
2. His monstrous servants
B. This is a vision of encouragement, comfort, light, hope
1. Like the rainbow of promise after a raging storm
C. The reign of terror cannot last
1. God does not wait for the details of the fall of the monsters in chapters 17-18 to present this vision of comfort(Revelation 14:1-3)
D. Chapter 14 is just the other side of chapter 13
1. 13 is the beast; 14 is the Lamb
2. 13 is the counterfeit, the spurious; 14 is the real, genuine
3. 13 is the beast worshiper and his mark; 14 is the worshiper of the Lamb and their disassociation from corruption of earth
4. 13 is these who go with the beast into perdition; 14 is these who are redeemed from earth
5. 13 is those who follow the beast in all his ways; 14 is these who follow the Lamb
6. 13 is the number of the beast, 666; 14 is the 144,000, the fullness and plentitude of the grace of God
II. Who are the 144,000?
A. Some say they are a symbol of all the hosts of God through all time
B. Some say they represent the choice spirits of the sanctified, honored above all other common Christians
C. There are as many identifications of them as there are interpreters
D. Things to be observed in their identification
1. They sing a new song in the presence of the elders(Revelation 14:3)
2. The number is unique (Revelation 14:1)
a. Not the first time we have heard of that number and company – suppose they are the same as in Revelation 7:1-8
3. All of these groups are together in the same vision(Revelation 7:9-14)
a. To identify all of them as the church makes the vision jumbled, impossible revelation
4. Simple explanation
a. The elders, twenty-four in number, represent the glorified saints – twelve patriarchs, twelve apostles(Revelation 7:11, 11:16, 21:12, 14)
b. The multitude coming out of every nation and tribe are those who have been won to Christ by the 144,000 sealed messengers of God (Revelation 7:4, 9-10)
5. They are the firstfruits unto God (Revelation 14:4)
a. Not the firstfruits of all the saved – that is the elders(Revelation 4:10, 1 Corinthians 15:23)
b. They are the firstfruits of another and particular harvest in a new era – the time after the days of the Gentiles(Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14, 14:3-4, 16:15-16, 1 Corinthians 15:52)
i. Paul – the Lord appearing to him hosperei to ektromati, "as one born out of due time" (1 Corinthians 15:5-8, Romans 11:26, Isaiah 66:8, Zechariah 12:10)
ii. These are the days when God will deal with apostate Israel, and take up promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob(2 Corinthians 3:15-16, Romans 11:26)
6. Their place on Mt. Zion(Revelation 14:1, Psalm 2:2-8, 48:1-14, 132:11-17, Isaiah 2:2-5)
a. The capital city of David
b. Place chosen of God that there He would reign forever
c. This vision is a millennial, heavenly scene – at His return these faithful witnesses gather unto Him and are rewarded by God
III. Characteristics of the 144,000
A. They are preserved from martyrdom and death by the Spirit of God until task is done (Revelation 14:1-3)
B. When they are finished, there are still 144,000 – not one is lost(Revelation 7:4, John 10:27-29, 17:12)
C. Sing a new song that nobody else in earth could sing – they have a separate, unique ministry(Revelation 14:3)
1. God doesn’t want us alike
2. Doesn’t mean anybody else was denied – we differ here, we will differ there in glory(Revelation 14:3)
D. They are virgins – refers to the fact that they separated themselves from corruptions of the earth (Revelation 14:4, 2 Corinthians 11:2)
E. In their mouth was no guile – God’s people are true, single-hearted (Revelation 14:5, John 1:47)