This image spells the attainment of the boldest of man's dreams - a prophecy that the original sin can be overcome during the earth life.
"Than I looked, and on Mount Zion stood the Lamb and with him were a hundred and forty-four thousand who had His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads... And they were singing a song. That song no one could learn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who alone from the earth had been ransomed. These are the ones who had not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed from among men as first-borns to God and the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” Rev. 14:1-5
Except for Jesus Christ we know only one other human being who was chaste in the face of God, completely sinless, and that is She who bore Him. Flowing streams of Divine grace and centuries of effort of the chosen people were needed for but one Jewish maiden to realize within herself the undistorted Divine image of man.
If that could have occurred one solitary case yet before the Redeemer was born, why the full purification is impossible now when by His sacrifice and the founding of the Church the Lamb has furnished us with new and most powerful means for struggle against sin?
Christians will necessarily put that question to themselves and the Revelation of St. John affirmatively replies: yes, that is possible and will happen.
That will be the prime and, possibly paramount result of the joint action of God and Lamb, the result of the revelation of Jesus Christ in the unity of His two natures.
Every single epithet that the Revelation applies to the "one hundred and forty-four thousand" attests to the triumph over sin... For to claim that they are chaste and that no lie was found in their lipsis that not tantamount to what Jesus Christ said of Himself:
“The Prince of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me”? John. 14:30
"Ransomed" - but from what?
From sin, curse and death.
The “first-borns” reveal that they were the first amongst the disciples of Jesus Christ who attained unquestionable holiness already in this life.
The Christian Church has never sanctified anyone before death. But here we have an entire people, though not that large, comprised of saints. Most likely they comprise the church at Philadelphia that is totally above reproach (3:7-13). What else if not a testimony to their full redemption and holiness is the "setting of the seal on their foreheads"?
The name Philadelphia in Greek means "brotherly
love", which is undoubtedly most symbolical, inasmuch as the one and only new commandment, which Jesus Himself called the New commandment, declares:
"As I have loved you, so you are to love one another". John. 13: 34
Let us now travel back in the mind's eye to the Garden of Eden as described at the outset of the Book of Genesis.Seen there firstly are but two men, Jesus in His Divine body and Adam created in His image and likeness. For Adam Jesus is God and Creator and also Friend and Tutor in Whom he confides and from Whom he learns all there is to be learned. When Jesus creates Eve Adam voices his love and gratitude (Gen. 2:20-25) while when the time comes, with the blessing of Jesus Adam and Eve marry to implement the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth" (Gen. 1:28).
Whence then the sin?
In that Eve betrayed her love for Jesus when harking to the serpent's slander, and subsequently betrayed her love for Adam, when without him she plucked the forbidden fruit, that awakened within her the untimely, unblessed by God, and hence deathly (Gen. 2:17) desire for her husband (Gen. 3:16).
In that Adam, afraid of losing Eve, shared her transgression and than declined to accept the responsibility for their joint guilt (Gen. 3:12).
But the chief thing he forewent and betrayed was his trust in He Who had created him. When the soul lost its trust in God, then the body no longer trusted and obeyed the soul, then in the human nature during the life entered the death: the body separation from soul.
Why did not Adam approach his Creator and Friend and air his doubts when his wife had sinned? Why did he hide after following her? Had he still trusted, the all could have been saved. Hence one may say that the root of sin is violation of brotherly love. In vain do we complain that we are merely compelled to pay for Adam's sin, for does not everyone of us repeat that sin again and again?
Again and again those foremost saints of old, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah and John the Baptist surmount Adam's sin, demonstrating despite extreme ordeal their infinitive trust in Yahweh-Jesus.
Which is likewise valid for the apocalyptic saints, whose mainstay is their fidelity to Jesus:
“You have a little power, and have kept My word, and not denied My name”. Rev.3:8
Told them is not what is said to the church at Thyatira, that they "only hold to what you have" (2:25) but that "they follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (14:4). This evidently is a thorny road, that few can take and that is emphasized as a salient peculiarity of the new people.
Such too is the new song they
sing, "the song of Moses... and the Lamb" (15:3), that "song no one could learn except they" (14:3).
The phrase "Men who did not defile themselves with women, for they have kept themselves chaste" (14:4) has always aroused controversy. Many believe the new Israel to be a monkish order. Yet condemnation of sex in principle is profoundly averse to the biblical tradition. The whole of the New Testament is positively flavored with marital symbolism:
“He who has the bride is the bridegroom”( John. 3:29);
"Can you expect the bridegroom's friends to fast while the bridegroom is with them?" (Mk. 2:19); or the parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 22:2-10).
Monkish abstinence is but a necessary stage to salvation from sin, zeal demonstrated in order to repair the union with God transgressed upon in the Garden of Eden for the sake of the willful possession of wife. Though escaping abstinence in impossible both personally and historically, regarding it as the ultimate conflicts with the spirit of the Holy Bible.
Near to that spirit are all who interpret “chastity” as non-participation in fornication with "other gods" as non-involvement in pagan rites. Rather is this chiefly imply that by overcoming the original sin with the aid of the powers of God and the Lamb they arrive at that sexual chastity and sanctity to attain which the biblical revelation constantly summons us. Reparation of the union of soul and body simultaneously signifies the vanquishing of death. Which is why they become
participant in "the first resurrection" (20:4-6).