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14.1.1. A Heavenly Scene

Evidence in favor of the heavenly Zion is as follows:1

  1. If the 144,000 are the ones singing the new song (Rev. Rev. 14:3+), they are said to be “before the four living creatures, and the elders” (Rev. Rev. 14:3+). In every other mention of the living creatures and elders within the book of Revelation, they are in heaven (Rev. Rev. 5:6+, Rev. 5:8+, Rev. 5:11+, Rev. 5:14+; Rev. 7:11+; Rev. 19:4+).
  2. It appears that the scene takes place “before the throne of God” (Rev. Rev. 14:3+, Rev. 14:5+). The natural conclusion is that this is the throne of the Father in heaven (Rev. Rev. 4:2-3+; Rev. 5:1+, Rev. 5:7+; Rev. 19:4+).2
  3. The Lamb is standing , as it was previously seen in heaven in the midst of the throne (Rev. Rev. 5:6+; Rev. 7:17+), but in the Millennium the Lamb would more likely be seated on His throne, the throne of David (Rev. Rev. 3:21+).
  4. The 144,000 are said to be redeemed from the earth (Rev. Rev. 4:3+). They were redeemed from among men (Rev. Rev. 4:4+). The implication is that they are no longer on the earth among men.

The problem with taking this as a heavenly scene (the heavenly Mount Zion) is how to explain the failure of the sealing of the 144,000 for protection (Rev. Rev. 7:1-3+) which has now apparently resulted in their death? Perhaps this is not as large of a problem as it first appears.

A close study of Revelation Rev. 12:1+ suggests that the faithful remnant which shall be protected throughout the Tribulation and find entry into the Millennial Kingdom are those who flee to the wilderness—the woman who has a place prepared for her by God (Rev. Rev. 12:6+). We saw that the 144,000 of Israel, who appear to have an evangelistic role, could not be a part of those kept in the wilderness. Because of their evangelistic mission, they will not be in Judea when the signal comes to flee to the mountains and subsequently the wilderness. Furthermore, if they did participate in the flight and subsequent hiding, how could they perform their evangelistic task among the Gentiles and Jews of the Diaspora?

Nowhere is it said that the seal which these receive is to protect them against death throughout the Tribulation and from all causes. Scripture only tells us they are to be protected from the direct effects of God’s judgments poured upon the earth. This is why the four winds of the earth are held back until they are sealed (Rev. Rev. 7:1-3+). Judgments upon the earth, the sea, and the trees may not proceed until they are protected. Moreover, they are said to be protected from the demonic locust judgment (Rev. Rev. 9:4+). All of these dangers come directly from God and represent His wrath upon the earth dwellers. They are to be protected from this “friendly fire” during their evangelistic mission. Does this necessarily mean that they are completely invincible for the entire duration of the Tribulation? If the example of the two powerful witnesses of God is any example, then perhaps not.3

The sealing they received protects them only from the wrath of God, not from the wrath of the dragon and the beast (cf. Rev. Rev. 12:12+). These are the same 144,000 as in Revelation Rev. 7:1+, but they are also the same as the rest of the woman’s seed in Revelation Rev. 12:17+, the witnesses to whom the dragon has access because of their refusal to worship the beast (Rev. Rev. 13:15+). . . . They are the vanguard who bear the brunt of the struggle against the beast and pay the price of their own lives.4

In the same way that the two witnesses are invincible for the duration of their ministry (Rev. Rev. 11:5+), so too might these be. Like the two witnesses “when they finish their testimony” (Rev. Rev. 11:7+), it may suit God’s purpose that their ultimate witness to Him finds its expression in their bold martyrdom (Rev. Rev. 12:11+).

On the other hand, the two witnesses are never said to be sealed for protection whereas these are. And why are these individuals singled out for special sealing if their ultimate fate is no different than the unsealed martyrs mentioned elsewhere (Rev. Rev. 6:9-11+; Rev. 7:14+; Rev. 11:7+; Rev. 12:11+; Rev. 15:2+; Rev. 20:4+)?


Notes

1 “The Vision is in heaven; for the singers stand before the Throne, and they are with the Lamb. He is not yet descended to the Earth. This decides the point that it is the heavenly Zion which is here referred to. The Temple on Earth was close to Mount Zion; so the Temple in heaven is correspondingly near to the heavenly Zion.”—E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), Rev. 14:1. “Some writers take it as the earthly site of a millennial reign, but the entire scene is one of praise before the throne in heaven.”—Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), Rev. 14:1.

2 The phrase “before the throne of God” in Rev. Rev. 14:5+ does not appear in the NU or MT texts, but appears only in the TR text.

3 Thomas holds to an unusual interpretation: he takes the 144,000 to be on earth, but also has them slain. The entire problem with having them in heaven is because their seal would not have protected them. Most who take them to be on the earth do so partly out of deference to the effectiveness of their sealing—they survive the Tribulation.

4 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), Rev. 14:1.