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Home » Daily Readings, New Testament Writers

The Lamb’s Elite

Submitted by on Monday, 24 November 2008No Comment
  • Reading I: Revelation 14:1-5
  • Resp. Psalm: Psalm 24:1-2,5-6
  • Gospel Reading: Luke 21:1-4



144000 and the Lamb

In Revelation 14:1, John presents a scene that contrasts with that of the Beast and its adherents. The Lamb and his adherents, the 144000. The number is ideal; it derives from the number twelve as its base (12x[12×1000]). In 7:3-8 they are presented as those of Israel. But in 14:4b, they are characterized as those who follow the Lamb everywhere he goes, that is, even to the point of death. They are called "firstfruits" and are therefore associated with those under the altar (6:9) and with those beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus (20:4). They are therefore martyrs. More, they are virgins. This aspect of their description contrasts them with the Watchers in 1 Enoch. The Watchers are angels that because of their commerce with the daughters of men are defiled and fall from heaven. In contrast, the 144000 are human beings which are exalted to a heavenly status: they are virginal, undefiled and offer their lives for Christ. In Revelation 7:3 the 144000 are still being sealed. In 14:1ff, they already bear the name of the Lamb and the Father designating their belongingness to both in an "irreversible manner" (Ugo Vanni). They are the only earthly beings who can understand the new song that are sung before the one on the heavenly throne. They learn it so that presumably they can also teach it to others.

So who are the 144000?

The description of the 144000 as virginal points to their identity. We know that there were those in the early church who practised continence, the "eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom" (cf. Matthew 19:12). One of them was St. Paul (see 1 Corinthians 7:7-8). Continence was not unknown in the Mediterranean. There were philosophers — especially among the Stoics — who were celibate. With Christianity, the memory of the Lord — who was celibate — and the expectation of his eminent return (1 Corinthians 7:25-31) led to the idea that it was better not to marry, since after all, "the unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:32). Apart from that they have the ability to learn the new song about the Lamb and are therefore in a position to teach it to others. Finally, they are actively engaged in the work of the Lamb, standing with Him on Mount Zion, the place where — in the eschatology of the prophets — all the nations will be taught the ways of God.

Revelation 14:1-5
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1And I beheld, and lo a lamb stood upon mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
2And I heard a voice from heaven, as the noise of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder; and the voice which I heard, was as the voice of harpers, harping on their harps.
3And they sung as it were a new canticle, before the throne, and before the four living creatures, and the ancients; and no man could say the canticle, but those hundred forty-four thousand, who were purchased from the earth.
4These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb:
5And in their mouth there was found no lie; for they are without spot before the throne of God.
Psalm 24:1-2,5-6
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1On the first day of the week, a psalm for David. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein.
2For he hath founded it upon the seas; and hath prepared it upon the rivers.
5He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God his Saviour.
6This is the generation of them that seek him, of them that seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Luke 21:1-4
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1And looking on, he saw the rich men cast their gifts into the treasury.
2And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in two brass mites.
3And he said: Verily I say to you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
4For all these have of their abundance cast into the offerings of God: but she of her want, hath cast in all the living that she had.
Revelation 14:1
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1And I beheld, and lo a lamb stood upon mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
Revelation 7:3
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
3Saying: Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we sign the servants of our God in their foreheads.
Matthew 19:12
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12For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.
1 Corinthians 7:7-8
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7For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that.
8But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I.
1 Corinthians 7:25-31
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
25Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful.
26I think therefore that this is good for the present necessity, that it is good for a man so to be.
27Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
28But if thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned. And if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned: nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh. But I spare you.
29This therefore I say, brethren; the time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none;
30And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
31And they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
1 Corinthians 7:32
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
32But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God.

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