Thursday, 1 April 2021
They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. Revelation 14:3
John continues with his vision of the one hundred and forty-four thousand, saying, “They sang as it were a new song before the throne.” The Greek is present tense – “They sing” rather than “They sang.” The Greek uses an adverb, hós, which is variously translated, but which is used in a comparative sense. Strong’s says, “it also assumes the nature of a conjunction, of time, of purpose, and of consequence.” Hence, the NKJV says “as it were.”
What is surely being conveyed is that this is referring to what is recorded in verse 5:8, 9 where it says –
“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:”
It was these figures of that vision who sang a new song. Here, it is the one hundred and forty-four thousand. They have joined the heavenly chorus in singing before the throne, meaning they have come to accept that Christ is Lord and the One who sits on heaven’s throne. John next says, “before the four living creatures.”
The four living creatures are those that picture the four gospels. It is these gospels that depict the life and work of Christ, detailing the four aspects of His ministry – the lion, the calf, the man, and the eagle signifying His kingly authority, His servanthood, His humanity, and His deity. John continues with “and the elders.”
As noted in the Chapter 4 commentary, these picture the heavenly government of Christ being praised by those of Israel and those of the nations, united as one government under Christ. John then next states, “and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand.”
The meaning of this is that the song of redemption is one that can only be learned by those who have been redeemed in the manner in which their redemption occurred. It is not saying that the song cannot be learned by anyone else in the absolute sense. But only those who come to know Christ can learn the song as it pertains to them.
The song is the same theme of the one sung in Revelation 5:9, but it is only intelligible to these one hundred and forty-four thousand. In 5:9, it included “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Here it is redemption of only this group of Jews. In their redemption, they can sing their own new song before the throne. This is surely what is conveyed because the song that was sung in Chapter 5 was also one of redemption –
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9, 10
Being a song of redemption, the redeemed can learn it. In this case, those who can learn it are this group of Jews “who were redeemed from the earth.” The Greek word translated here as “redeemed” means “purchased” or “bought.” A price was paid for them, which was the blood of Christ, signifying His death. They are now a part of the heavenly chorus.
Life application: Singing a new song is a theme that goes back to the Old Testament and is found in no less than five psalms. One example is in Psalm 96 –
“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
3 Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.” Psalm 96:1-3
Although this verse in Revelation contains a “new song,” it is only so because of the progressive working of God in human history. In other words, the overall message of such a song will be the same – proclaiming the greatness and the glory of God in His unfolding plan of redemption.
Even if a “new song” for the Old Testament saints will be different than a “new song” for the New Testament saints, the salvation is ultimately of the same source – the Person and work of Jesus Christ. But how that salvation is brought about in the individual has differences.
Old Testament saints, prior to the Law of Moses, looked forward to it in their own unique way. Those who lived during the Law of Moses looked forward to it in a different way. Each succeeding “dispensation” has the same Savior, but with a clearer picture of His work. In the end, though, each relies on grace through faith in Him for their redemption.
Over the ages, people have tried to identify who the 144,000 are. Cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim it springs from specially sealed members within its organization. Many older, mainstream denominations claim it is symbolic of the redeemed of all the ages and thus excludes Israelis of a future tribulation period. All such analyses are wrong.
Chapter 7 clearly identifies these as Jews, not cult members of aberrant denominations or sects, and they are also not a “symbolic” counting of the redeemed of the ages. The same scholars who argue this view also argue that the twenty-four elders are representative of the redeemed of the ages. This then confuses the narrative.
If the twenty-four elders of Chapter 4 are representative of the government of the redeemed, then why would the one-hundred and forty-four thousand need to be its own separate category here? There are also the great multitude in white robes (and so on) who must be accounted for.
No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand referred to here because they are not of the same group. The new song reflects the process of the redemption of these numbered and sealed Jews of the future. The reason that no one could learn that song is because this specific redemption has only happened to them.
As an example, only a person who was on the Titanic and was saved from that drowning can “sing the song of the Titanic.” Only a person who was on the Lusitania and was saved from that accident can “sing the song of the Lusitania.” The salvation was the same, from drowning, but the actual experience in time and history is unique to each situation. This is the same for these one hundred and forty-four thousand. No one else can sing their song because it is a unique event that God has designed for them alone.
In the end, each of us is redeemed by the blood of Christ, but our salvation story is unique to us. From there, it is brought into a larger category, such as “from this tribe, and then a larger one, such as “from this nation.” Eventually, however, all redemption comes to the final, single category of us being from humanity. All redemption comes solely because of the shed blood of the Lamb. No matter who is in heaven, and no matter what the individual salvation was like, in the end, it came solely and completely in one way alone. It came through JESUS.
Heavenly Father, it is important for us to realize that we are all saved in the same way, but not in the same context. We can’t insert our salvation experience into another person’s life, and so we cannot make unfounded assumptions about their walk with You either. Help us to focus on the fact that they are redeemed through faith in Christ. Thank God for Jesus Christ! Amen.