The most important thing to remember in trying to understand Revelation 14, is that it is preceded by Revelation 12 and 13. Revelation 12 and 13 are pictures of the rise of the kingdoms of this world to dominance, under the leadership of Satan, during the course of all the ages of the earth. The war in heaven (Revelation 12) takes place very early in the history of the earth, while the marking with the name of the beast (Revelation 13) takes place during the Middle Ages, if the historicist interpretation is correct.
Revelation 13 ends at the height of the power of the world’s kingdom, under the leadership of Satan and his antichrist, the Roman system and the Roman papacy. In Revelation 14 the scene begins to drastically change: the Lamb appears on Mount Zion! The tide is now going to turn!
The 144,000 which were sealed in chapter 7 appear with the Lamb. In chapter 7, we were just told that they were sealed with the seal of God on their foreheads. In this chapter we have a little more information. In contrast to those who were marked by the NAME of the beast on their foreheads in Revelation 13, the 144,000 were marked by the NAME of YHVH on their foreheads. Compare these passages for even more insight into what it means to be marked by the name of YHVH on one’s hand and forehead.
The phrase, “these are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins,” has been a source of controversy in the church, and has contributed to the Roman church’s stand on celibacy for the priesthood. First of all, a marital relationship does not defile a man, for from the beginning He made them male and female, and said that it was not good for man to be alone, and admonished that what God had joined together, let no man put asunder. But then there is the word “virgin” in Greek, and means just what you would expect it to mean. We saw in chapter 7 that the sealing of the 144,000 took place during the time of the great Roman persecutions of the church, and it is possible that these particular 144,000 were indeed virgins in the literal sense – choosing not to marry because of the times of persecution that they lived in. We can speculate till the cows come home. We will know for sure when the Lord Jesus is here to explain every last detail. 🙂
To be continued ….
Update: continued in Revelation 14: three proclamations