Some want to identify the singers as the redeemed ones themselves. The reasons for assigning this identity are the inability of anyone else to learn the song (Rev. Rev. 14:3+) (Kiddle) and the analogy of Rev. Rev. 15:2+ where the overcomers have harps (Beasley-Murray). This cannot be, however, because the song is sung in heaven and the 144,000 redeemed ones are on the earthly Mount Zion (Alford, Beckwith). The song is intelligible to the 144,000, but they are not the singers (Moffatt).2The association of the song with the harpists has the advantage of coupling the pronoun (they) more closely to the antecedent (harpists). It also associates the singing with those who initiate the music and play the harps. It also explains who the 144,000 would learn the song from. Who then are the harpers? They are the martyred company seen in connection with the fifth seal and they also include now their brethren which were slain during the great tribulation.3 If John sees a preview of the 144,000 standing on Mount Zion at the end of the Tribulation, then their appearance follows upon the events of the Tribulation. Interestingly, a group of singing harpists in heaven is mentioned in the very next chapter, although they sing a different song (the song of Moses and of the Lamb). They are those who have victory over the Beast, over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name (Rev. Rev. 15:2+). The harpists here, although singing a different song, are probably also from among the redeemed.4 The weaknesses of this view include:
- The new song originates in the mouths of the harpists, who lack the firsthand experience of the redemption and preservation of the 144,000. In other passages, those who initiate songs are the ones who experienced redemption (Rev. Rev. 5:9-10+; Rev. 15:2+).
- The statement mentioning the faultlessness of the 144,000 before the throne of God (Rev. Rev. 14:5+) must be understood to describe their salvific position rather than their physical location in heaven. (However, this phrase does not even appear in the NU or MT texts, but only the TR text. See commentary on Revelation 14:5.)
- The need to make a distinction between singing the song and learning the song. If the 144,000 are said to be the only ones who can learn the song, how do we account for the harpists who initially learn in order to sing? A possible solution is that the 144,000 are the only ones from among those on the earth who can learn it because the song, originated by the harpists in heaven, commemorates their personal experience. It is uniquely their special privilege to sing it. See commentary on Revelation 14:3.
- The emphasis placed on the uniqueness of the song and its association with redemption (Rev. Rev. 14:3+) argues against its origin with any but the 144,000 themselves.
- The majority of manuscripts (NU and MT texts) indicate that the voice or sound was like harpists playing on their harps. If this describes a voice (rather than the sound of a multitude), then they which sing in Rev. Rev. 14:3+ cannot refer to the voice. See commentary on Revelation 14:2.
The first verse presents what appears to be a millennial scene, . . . with the 144,000 Jews standing on Mount Zion with the protective seal on their foreheads prominently displayed. This shows that Satans attempt at total Jewish destruction will fail.6
They are the firstfruits of the millennial reign. They connect the dispensationssomewhat as Noah did, who passed through the judgment of the flood into a new order of things.7
In chapter fourteen the same group [the 144,000 from Revelation Rev. 7:1+] is pictured at the termination of the tribulation, when the kingdom is established. The returning King is on Mount Zion, as was predicted of Him (Zec. Zec. 14:4. At His return the faithful witnesses gather to Him, having been redeemed (Rev. Rev. 14:4+) and having faithfully witnessed in the midst of apostasy (Rev. Rev. 14:4-5+).8
2 Ibid., Rev. 14:3.
5 We first find the 144,000 on earth (Mount Zion) and then in Heaven (before the throne). Now, this is remarkable, for it suggests that the Lamb will gather them together in Jerusalem in order to transport them to Heaven. It suggests, too, that these 144,000 will be raptured from Jerusalem, for there is no mention of them dying.Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 14:1.