On Mount Zion (evidently the heavenly Mount Zion [Hebrews 12:22]), John saw the Lamb with the 144,000. Earlier, he had heard this number as applying to those who would be marked with the seal of the living God. (7:4) He now saw them with the name of the Lamb and the name of his Father written on their foreheads, indicating that they belonged to him and to his Father. (14:1) This also suggests that the seal of the living God had thus identified them. (Compare 2 Timothy 2:19.) Not a single one of them had been lost. All had endured to the end and maintained their faith, having received needed help from above while the powers of darkness launched their fierce attack against them. (Compare Matthew 24:9-13; John 10:27-30; 17:12; 18:8, 9; Revelation 13:10, 11.)
Coming from the heavens, John heard an impressive sound comparable to the roar of abundant waters in motion and peals of thunder. It was a melodious sound like that of “harpists harping on their harps.” Before the throne of God, the four living beings, and the twenty-four elders, a great throng (probably the entire heavenly host) sang a composition that John perceived as being a new song. The 144,000 had no problem in learning it. As the only ones who had been purchased from the earth before the destructive winds began to blow, they were also the only ones able to learn this song. Apparently their aptitude for learning it rested on their relationship with the Son of God and their having remained faithful to the end when faced with severe trials. They had maintained their virgin purity, not defiling themselves with “women.” (14:2-4) This indicated that they had not amorously attached themselves to any part of the world alienated from God, which would have constituted an act of unfaithfulness to him or adultery. (Compare James 4:4.)
The 144,000 are revealed as having an intimate relationship with the Lamb, following him wherever he may go. (14:4) This is the kind of intimacy the apostles enjoyed while Jesus Christ was on earth. (Compare Mark 3:13, 14.)
John referred to the 144,000 as having been purchased from among humankind as “firstfruits” to God and to the Lamb. (14:4) The term “firstfruits” need not be understood as signifying that the 144,000 were just a small part of a far larger harvest that would eventually follow. In the Septuagint, the term for “firstfruits” (aparché) can simply denote an “offering” (Exodus 25:2, 3) and may have this meaning here — a significance that would agree with Paul’s words that the “offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by holy spirit.” (Romans 15:16) Another possibility is that aparché could denote a choice or precious portion devoted to God and the Lamb.
The 144,000 proved themselves to be upright. They did not make themselves guilty of deceiving others with lies and lived blameless lives. In word and deed, they were without blemish. (14:5; compare Ephesians 1:3, 4; 4:25-5:5, 25-27; Philippians 2:14, 15.)
In 14:3, the oldest manuscripts and numerous later manuscripts omit hos (“as” or “like”) before “new song.” The word is, however, found in many other manuscripts, including fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus.
On 14:4, see the Notes section on Revelation 7.