XXVIII - 7(95) Excerpt


what of the night?”

"The hour has come, the hour is striking and striking at you,
the hour and the end!"        Eze. 7:6 (Moffatt)


The 144,000 and the Three Angels

(Part 3)

[Excerpt from wwn7(95)]

The first vision given to John after he was told, "Here is wisdom," is a climax to a series of revelations given in the previous chapters. He was told that "all that dwell on the earth shall worship" the first beast, except those whose names are in "the book of life of the Lamb." (13:8) It was also stated that those who would "not worship the image of the beast should be killed." (13:15) In Chapter 12, it was declared that those who overcome "the dragon" do so "by the blood of the Lamb," and these "loved not their lives unto death." (12:11) Now John sees a company with the Lamb on mount Sion, 144,000. This number stands in direct contrast to the "all" who worship, the dragon, beast, and image. (13:4, 15) These are commandment keepers; they have no other gods before Jehovah Elohim. (Ex. 20:2-3) Further, they do not bow down to, nor serve any "image." (Ex. 20:4-5) God honors them for their fidelity in the midst of universal apostasy by placing His name in their foreheads.

The 144,000 on mount Sion, the remnant of the seed of the woman who face the death decree in the warfare with the dragon, are also revealed in the first section of the book. (Chapter 7) There these victors are portrayed as having "washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (v. 14) The picture is heightened by further comparison. The 144,000 receive "His Father's name." These "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." (14:4) The high point of this last section of Revelation before the Millennial reign is that "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." She is clothed in “fine linen, clean and white, “a righteousness obtained by the blood of the Lamb. There is another "knitting" back into the first section. The victors of "Laodicea" sit with "the True Witness" (Gr. ho martus) on His throne. (3:21) They refuse to worship the dragon, beast and image - they keep the commandments - and they have the "witness" (Gr. marturian) of Jesus Christ. They are the "remnant" of the woman's seed, the "Queen" - the wife of the Lamb accepting only "His Father's name."

The 144,000 with the Father's name in their foreheads

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"the seal of God" (Rev. 7:3) - are in contrast to the "all" who worship the beast and receive "a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads." (13:16) With the emphasis on "the blood of the Lamb" as the means of victory, the 144,000 have nothing in their hands to bring, simply to the Lamb they cling. Those who trust in the merits of their own works - Cain worship - receive a mark in their right hand.

John next heard a Duo singing "a new song" in which the 144,000 unite their voices. These voices are accompanied "by harpers harping on their harps." (14:2-3) "The voice of many waters" is the voice of "the Son of man." (1:15) The voice "of a great thunder" is God Himself. Zephaniah seeing "the remnant of Israel" who do no iniquity, neither is a "deceitful tongue found in their mouth," foretells that the Lord God "will joy over (them) with singing." (3:13, 17) [See John 12:28-29, and note the phrase, "lightnings and thunderings and voices" associated with descriptions of the Throne of God in Revelation 4:5; 16:17-18.] An interesting question for consideration is why and what is the "new song" which only God, the Lamb and the 144,000 will sing together.

The 144,000 are indicated as having been "redeemed from among men." (14:4) James White made an insightful observation on this point. He wrote: "Not out of their graves; no, no, - 'from among men.' They must, therefore, be the living saints who are changed to immortality at the coming of the Lord." (R&H, May 9, 1854, p. 124; emphasis his) These are declared to be "the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb." Here again is the Divine Duo with a stated relationship of the 144,000 to Them. This entwining picture should be carefully considered:

1) The 144,000 are with the Lamb on mount Sion with God's name in their foreheads.

2) The Lamb and God sing a "new song" in which only the 144,000 can unite their voices.

3) The 144,000 become "first fruits" to God and the Lamb.

If James White's observation first penned in 1850 is correct, and we believe it is, this relationship between the 144,000 and the Divine Duo is further heightened by the fact that those who are translated without seeing death put on "immortality" in contrast to the "incorruption" of the resurrected saints. (I Cor. 15:51-54) The word translated, "immortality" (athanasia) is used only three times in the New Testament, twice in I Corinthians 15:53-54, and once in I Tim. 6:l6. Here in these related verses is a clear suggestion that the 144,000 will share in an attribute of God as did the exalted Jesus who had laid aside this prerogative to accomplish redemption. This resurrected Christ is also called, "the first fruits." (I Cor. 15:23)

There is an interpretation read into these verses which designates the 144,000 as the instruments by which God brings together the "great multitude" of Revelation 7:9. Inasmuch as the 144,000 are discussed in both Revelation 7, and 14, we need to pause and consider the two prophetic pictures together. In Revelation 7, the question is asked, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" (v. 13 NKJV) There is no question but that the great multitude are arrayed in white robes. The text so states. (7:9) It also declares that the "multitude" come from "all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues."

Applying the same question asked by "one of the elders" in Chapter 7 to Revelation 14 in regard to the 144,000, the answer is - they result from the Three Angels' Messages, which are likewise given not only to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (14:6) but also to them "that dwell on the earth." The 144,000 are not only "redeemed from among men," but also are "redeemed from the earth." (14:3) Here a judgment call must be made once again. Are we to interpret "earth" as the symbolic "earth" of the continuous prophecy of Revelation 12 & 13, or do we interpret the word as applied to the planet as a whole?

From the picture in Revelation 14, must be added the descriptive concept of the 144,000 - "in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." (v. 5) In other words, "they keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." (v. 12) Compare Rev. 14:5 with I Peter 2:22, and consider the basic revelation of Chapter 12 - the "Seed" of the Woman, the Man-child, and the "remnant of her seed" which keep the commandments of God, and have the witness of Jesus. (12:17) Where then does the "great multitude" enter the picture? In Rev. 14:13 "a voice from heaven" is heard. The Holy Spirit speaks - "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth." There is a point of time from which those who die in the Lord are called "blessed." The text would suggest that point as the beginning of the Three Angels' Messages.

We next turn our attention to the Three Angels

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 -- and their messages. Immediately we face a problem. How are we to identify these angels, as symbols or real angels? We have said that they represent a movement. We have perceived that movement to be the Adventist Movement. However, there are more than three angels in Revelation 14. Besides the three which "fly in the midst of heaven," there are three other angels: two come "out of the temple," and one "out from the altar." (vs. 15-18) One from the "temple" and the one from the "altar" are involved with "the great winepress of the wrath of God" and "the city." (vs. 19-20) The previous reference where "temple," "altar," and "city" are associated together is Rev. 11:1-2. The references previous to Rev. 11:1, where the "altar" is seen is in Chapters 8 & 9. There it is called, "the golden altar before the throne." (8:3; 9:13)

Our problem is that if we interpret the three angels flying in the midst of heaven as an earthly movement, how can we interpret the last three as literal? If all are symbolic of "movements," what movements do the last three represent? How do we interrelate these angels which come out of the temple with the two temple scenes of Chapter 11:1, 19? Either we say that they mean something different in Revelation 14, or we say that they must be given a consistent identification in each reference where the term is used. Whichever interpretive decision we make, we come face to face with the realization that there are still areas in the book of Revelation that need prayer and study.

A suggestive interpretation of the angels of Revelation 14 might be found in the designation of the sixth angel. He had "authority ("power" - KJV) over the fire." (v. 18 Gr.) In Revelation 16, the angel of the third plague is spoken of as "the angel of the waters." (16:5) Throughout the entire book, angels are given specific responsibilities in carrying out the directives that come from the throne of God. Thus we could say that the first angel of Revelation 14 was given the "authority" to see that the everlasting gospel with its specific emphasis for earth's last hour was implemented. This he did through the Advent Movement. From this viewpoint, the "angels of God" in Revelation are real beings - "ministering spirits" - placed in charge of God's plans and purposes to bring about the full realization of the victory of "His Christ." (12:10)

Considering the messages of the first three angels of Revelation 14, as we seek to let the text speak, we face problems in harmonizing what the text says with what our tradition has read into these verses.

The first angel comes in the midst of heaven "having the everlasting gospel." (14:6) It is age-long (aionion); the same gospel as promised to Eve in the beginning, and realized in the victory of the Man-child. It is to go not only to "them that dwell on the earth," but also to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." It carried a specific message. "The hour of God's judgment is come." "Is come" (elthen) is in the past tense (Gr. aorist). When this angel gives its message, the judgment has commenced. The message of the first angel is not a message telling of something to come, but a proclamation of what has begun - God's judgment hour. Further it is connected with three imperatives: 1) "Fear God," 2) "Give glory to Him," and 3) "Worship Him who made."

This message could not be given until the Judgment had begun in Heaven no more than the Spirit could come on Pentecost until the enthronement of Christ as High Priest in the Heavenly Sanctuary. (See Acts 2:33) Thus the first angel began to sound after 1844, not before. It is also a historical fact that the Movement directed by this angel did not see the sanctuary truth of the final atonement of the great High Priest, or the Sabbath truth until after October 22, 1844. Further, since this message is a part of the age-long gospel, it will continue to be proclaimed till the close of all human probation. The other two which follow only join their voices with this first angel.

The second angel proclaims - "Babylon is fallen, is fallen." Again, this is in the past tense (epesen). When this angel sounds, there is an accomplished fact. In fact, the reason for the fall of Babylon - "because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" - is in the Greek perfect tense (pepotiken), indicating completed action. The message of this angel is that the "nations" to whom "the everlasting gospel" was to be proclaimed, instead of accepting it, chose to drink of Babylon's wine under religious duress.

The third angel joins the other two. However, in John's recording of this message, he places it in the present tense - "If any man is worshiping (proskunei) the beast and his image, and is receiving (lambanei) a mark ...." (14:9) This message, therefore, except in a warning of what will be, cannot be "present truth" until the "mark" is in place, and the proclamation to worship is made. It needs to be kept in mind that the cause to worship this beast is contingent on the fact that "the deadly wound was healed." (13:12)

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When we consider the "wisdom" and "understanding" given to John in the previous chapter (13:18), we discover that the basic element in this warning is against the worship of man for the "beast" is a man! The third angel joins his voice in warning that the rejection of the everlasting gospel's imperatives - "Fear God, and give glory to Him ... and worship Him who made" - and in its place, worshiping man in whatever form that may take, brings "the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture." (14:10)

In the final confrontation when all that dwell on the face of the earth bow in worship to the beast that had a deadly wound and "was healed," there will be a "remnant of Israel" who, as the Three Worthies before them, refuse to bow to the image - they will keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." (14:12) It will be a trying ordeal for it will reveal the "endurance" (patience - KJV) of the saints. "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Matt. 24:13)

This verse - 14:12 - is interesting in that not only do the "saints" keep the commandments of God, they also keep the faith of Jesus. We hear much about "keeping" the commandments of God, but we hear little, if any thing, about keeping the faith of Jesus. This word, "keep" (tereo) is the same word as used in the blessing pronounced upon those who "keep those things which are written" in the book of Revelation. (1:3; 22:7, 9) John uses this word frequently in both his Gospel and first Epistle. In these books, it is used primarily with keeping the commandments, and the sayings of Jesus.

We might ask, does the keeping of the faith of Jesus mean entering into the experience He entered, in both Gethsemane and Calvary, where unable to see through the darkness, He simply prayed, "Thy will be done. Father into thy hands I commend my spirit." Will the 144,000 who go with the Lamb "withsoever He goeth," have also gone with Him through their Gethsemane and Calvary?

"One thing will certainly be understood from a study of Revelation, - that the connection between God and His people is close and decided.” (TM, p. 114)