Defiled is Ἐμολύνθησαν [Emolynthēsan] : Causing something to be dirty soil, smear, stain; metaphorically, as keeping the life spotless.1 The same word describes those in the church at Sardis who had not defiled their garments (Rev. Rev. 3:4+). Their faithful service of the Lamb was exemplary and motivated by their consuming obedience to His will, because they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. This does not indicate that they were sinless, for they are among those needing redemption. This verse does not negate the divine institution and blessing upon married sexual relations for marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Heb. Heb. 13:4). Perhaps these minister at a time when the institution of marriage has all but fallen by the wayside (not inconceivable if present trends continue) and relations with women are almost exclusively outside of the bounds of marriage in their time? Theirs is a time characterized by fornication (Rev. Rev. 9:21+), perhaps pagan rites of old are flourishing once again, but on a global basis:
We have more than once, in the Epistles to the Assemblies, and on Revelation Rev. 9:20+, Rev. 9:21+, said that Fornication will be part of the great religious system of Anti-Christ in the coming time of trouble and temptation; as it formed an obligatory part of the great pagan systems of idolatry. Idolatry was not a mere sin into which people gradually sunk; but it was a Satanic device into which people rose in order to gratify the lusts of the flesh under the cloak of religion.2
The worship of Antichrist during the Tribulation will be unspeakably vile and perverse. As it did in the fertility cults of ancient times, sexual sin will apparently run rampant. Even in the current grossly immoral day, we can hardly imagine what the deviant sexual perversion of the Tribulation will be like. With all divine restraint removed (2Th. 2Th. 2:6-7) and the unbelieving world judgmentally abandoned by God (cf. Rom. Rom. 1:24, Rom. 1:26, Rom. 1:28), sin will be released like a flood, inundating the world.3
But in the fearful days of abandonment as in the days of Noahwhen lust and violence will again fill the whole earth (as we see beginning now!) how wonderful to behold this company of 144,000 who have chosen to be entirely separated unto the Lamb and unto His Father, and who are thus, despite the days!4In their complete dedication to the service of the Lamb, they voluntarily chose to forgo relations with women in order to focus completely on their unique God-given task during the Tribulation. they are virgins
These are physical virgins, for why else would it be said of this particular group of saints that they are virgins? All the saints are virgins in the spiritual sense of being set aside and dedicated to God. I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ (2Cor. 2Cor. 11:2). Jesus explained, there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mothers womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heavens sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it (Mtt. Mat. 19:12) Not only is there virgin purity of life, but there is also virgin loveundivided heart affection for the Lamb.5 These are eunuchs for the kingdom of heavens sake. By both choice and gifting, they were enabled to give their full focus to ministry at the time of the end.
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. . . . But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. . . . But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lordhow he may please the Lord. (1Cor. 1Cor. 7:5-7, 1Cor. 7:17, 1Cor. 7:32)who follow the Lamb wherever He goes
This speaks of their complete obedience to do the will of the Lamb. In the same way that the Lamb followed the Father (John John 4:34), so these followed the Lamb. Those who fully follow God are blessed. Joshua and Caleb were allowed into the Promised Land because they followed God fully (Num. Num. 14:24). A scribe claimed he would follow Jesus wherever You go, but there is always a cost to such discipleship (Mtt. Mat. 8:19-22; Luke Luke 9:57-62). Those who would know and serve the Master must first of all be followers, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John John 10:27). If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am there My servant will be also (John John 12:26). These are among the rest of the womans offspring who kept the commands of God. See commentary on Revelation 12:17. If this scene is in heaven (see commentary on Revelation 14:1), then their obedience had ultimately cost them their lives. Unlike Peter, they had not denied their Lord, but had followed the Lamb even through the portal of death and into eternal life:
Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, where are You going? Jesus answered him, Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward. Peter said to Him, Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake. Jesus answered him, Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. (John John 13:36-38)These were redeemed
ἠγοράσθησαν [ēgorasthēsan] : Literally buy, purchase, do business in the marketplace6 (1Cor. 1Cor. 6:20; Eph. Eph. 1:14). The purchase price was the Lambs blood (Acts Acts 20:28; Rev. Rev. 1:5+; Rev. 5:9+; Rev. 12:11+). See commentary on Revelation 1:5. firstfruits
Ἀπαρχὴ [Aparchē] : Rom. 16:1.5).7 The firstfruits was the first portion of a harvest which was dedicated to God. It demonstrated the priority which was given to God because the first of that which had been long awaited was bypassed by the harvester and given to God (Lev. Lev. 23:10-14). By honoring God with ones firstfruits, the resulting blessing would provide a greater yield. The nation of Israel is said to be the firstfruits of Gods increase which would eventually include multitudes of redeemed Gentiles (Jer. Jer. 2:3). James indicated that the early church was a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. Jas. 1:18). In the time since, the harvest has spread to multitudes around the world. Here, after the Church Age and the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom. Rom. 11:25), these represent the firstfruits of the spiritual awakening of Israel in preparation for the Millennial Kingdom to follow (Eze. Eze. 37:1).8
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob. (Rom. Rom. 11:25-26)They may also be considered firstfruits from the perspective of their unique preservation through the Tribulation enabling them to contribute to the initial Jewish population which enters the Millennial Kingdom in their natural bodies and subsequently populates the kingdom (Isa. Isa. 65:20, Isa. 65:23).
These sealed Jews [Rev. Rev. 7:4-8+] are those who come to faith in Jesus as Messiah during the Tribulation period. They are further described as first fruits unto God and to the Lamb (Rev. Rev. 14:4+), indicating that they compose the first stage of a final harvest of Jewish souls to be gathered later at the Lords coming in glory. . . . These comprise the remnant of Jews who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. Rev. 12:17+b).9See commentary on Revelation 7:4, Revelation 11:13, and Revelation 20:4.
3 John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2000), Rev. 14:4.
7 Ibid., 61.
8 Some disagree: Adams explains: The 144,000 cannot be interpreted as Jews who will some day escape persecution in a yet future age. In no intelligible sense could such a group of Jews be considered firstfruits. Historically, the firstfruits of the Christian church were among the Jewsin fact among the very Jews who are here mentioned: those in Jerusalem, who escaped the destruction in 70 A.D. How artificial to twist firstfruits into the very last fruits of the Christian era! Steve Gregg, Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 316. The problem with Adams view is it completely ignores the distinction which Scripture makes between the Church and Israel. Those Jewish believers who frequent the pages of the NT are members of the Church, not the restored revived Israel. This is Pauls point throughout three full chapters of Romans (Romans Rom. 9:1, Rom. 10:1, and Rom. 11:1). Furthermore, if these are uniquely preserved throughout the Tribulation, they form an initial Jewish population of the Millennial Kingdom. They serve as firstfruits of that physical Jewish population in a unique way.
9 William Varner, Jacobs Dozen: A Prophetic Look at the Tribes of Israel (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1987), 103.