“On Mount Zion” – Revelation 14:1-5

by Roger McCay
17 December 2023
Sermon Passage: Revelation 14:1-5
Link to Audio Version

By the end of Rev. 13, the picture of the world John has painted is bleak. Satan and the two beasts that are under his thrall were exercising dominion in the political and religious realms of the world. The Roman Empire, headed by Nero, along with the Jewish high-priestly aristocracy (subordinate to Rome and based in the temple in Jerusalem) were bringing their combined power against the Christians, seeking to destroy them, according to Satan’s will. Facing such daunting opposition at war against them, how could the fledgling church possibly survive? The mother-church in Jerusalem and the churches planted and growing throughout the empire were seriously lacking in worldly power. The church had no political force backing them and no military power. It had no religious support coming from any established and officially recognized religion in the empire, as the Jews had denied them. They even had their own internal troubles, as seen in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. How could they possibly withstand these organized and seeming unstoppable forces arrayed against them?

Such is a question for the ages. The Lord’s people have always had forces arrayed against them—enemies from within and without. Even today, political regimes and religious forces bring attacks against our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world. In our own country, Christians face determined opposition, with attacks on our beliefs and freedoms to live as disciples Christ, attacks on our character, attacks on our message of hope and truth, attacks meant to denigrate us, suppress us, and silence us. We see apostasy within the church, attacks on sound doctrine and truth, with churches and even whole denominations pushing the truth aside or overtly abandoning it in favor of embracing the lies of the culture. And the struggle against these forces is found in even the staunchest, Bible-believing churches. The relentless attacks of the forces arrayed against us, which have persisted throughout the centuries and across cultures can be a bit overwhelming, especially if and when we find ourselves in battle and/or under fire. The war against us is everywhere and relentless, ongoing from before we were born, carrying on through our whole life, and continuing on after we die (that is, if Christ doesn’t come back first).

But the Lord has not abandoned us. Rather, he is with us in the midst of it all, preserving us, sanctifying us, and loving us—the emphasis of today’s passage. Rev. 14. speaks directly to the persecuted church, as a comfort, and a guarantee of victory, in Christ. Many have also pointed out how its imagery also hearkens to Psalm 2, where God’s enemies set themselves up against the Lord and his Anointed. The Lord answers the raging, plotting, and rebelling nations with laughter and derision, responding, beginning in v. 6, with a warning: “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Which is exactly what we find, in Rev. 14:1.

Now, the structure of Rev. 14:1-5 has quite a number of deliberate contrasts with the Lord’s enemies in ch. 13, particularly with the False Prophet. Last week we looked at the similarities and contrast of the seal on the 144,000 with the mark of the beast, which by their juxtaposition helped us accurately define the nature of the mark. The seal on the 144,000 (which we defined back when we looked at ch. 7, and reexamined last week) was the seal of the Spirit of God on his people, the seal of the Covenant of Grace, described as the name of the Father and the Son written upon his people, symbolically identifying them as a people for his own possession (1 Pet. 2:9). In contrast, the mark of the beast represented the bondage of the Law of God, outside of Christ (Gal. 3:10; 4:25), enforced by the high-priestly aristocracy in an effort to maintain their own power and position under the beast. As for those sealed and marked, specific to these passages, in both cases it was upon first century Jews who lived in the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem—the elect Jews (Jewish Christians) sealed, and those who were not, marked. Our passage today helps to solidify that identification. The seal on God’s people served as assurance of God’s preservation. Those with the mark of the beast had no such assurance, as they had rejected the Messiah, and were thus apostate and facing God’s wrath.

There are a few other clear contrasts in the passages that are worthwhile to note. Ken Gentry notes these contrasts, highlighting that they are deliberate and given to emphasize that, as he puts it, “The high priest of Israel is corrupt and falling, and the ultimate High-Priest, Jesus Christ, is being established in his place.”[1] So, if you’ve got your Bible’s open, you can follow these contrasts in the text, as I touch on them.[2]

In Rev. 14:1, Jesus appears as the Lamb on Mt. Zion, where in Rev. 13:11, the second beast, the False Prophet, had appeared as a lamb. This points to Jesus having fulfilled and having made obsolete the Old Covenant, which includes the whole Temple system, with its sacrifices, priests, and so forth (Heb. 8:13). He is the great High-Priest of God’s people (Heb. 2:17; 4:14). He was the ultimate sacrificial lamb who atoned for the sins of his people, on the cross, and redeemed them as his own (Heb. 7:26-27). Then, too (as we considered last week), in Rev. 14:1, the Lord’s seal on the people of the Lamb is written on their foreheads, compared to the mark of the beast in Rev. 13:16, which was marked on their foreheads or hands.

Moving on to Rev. 14:3, the action that occurs there happens in the presence of God’s throne. In contrast to this, the action occurs in the presence of the first beast in Rev. 13:12. Contrasting those same verses, the redeemed people of the Land worship God in 14:3, where the inhabitants of the Land worship the first beast in 13:12. And like I’ve explained before, the word there in v. 12, in context, is best translated as “land” rather than “earth” (as in “the promised land”). Rev. 14:3 then contrasts with Rev. 13:13, with a voice coming down from heaven versus fire falling down from heaven. Verse 3 also contrasts with Rev. 13:15, where the image speaks versus the voice in heaven singing.

Rev. 14:4 then refers to the sealed 144,000 as redeemed by the Lamb (thus bought with a price – 1 Cor. 6:20). This in contrast to Rev. 13:17, where those who don’t have the mark of the beast, and thus do not worship the beast, were forbidden to buy or sell. And in the further description of the 144,000, in Rev. 14:5, it says they have no lie in their mouths. In other words they are “not about the work of deception.” [3] Their testimony is true. And this contrasts to Rev. 13:14, which speaks to the second beast deceiving the people of the land.

These various contrasts emphasize the differences between the Lamb and his people versus the False prophet and those under his thrall. It highlights the superiority of the Lamb, the security of the Lamb’s people, and the truth of the gospel versus the lie of the false prophet. It emphasizes the Lord Jesus’ establishment on Zion as the Great High-Priest and the eternal King, fulfilling the promised hope of the prophets.

So, Rev. 14:1 – “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” We’ve looked at most of this already, but we should not overlook that the vision emphasizes the very place the Lamb of God is standing with his people. He’s standing on Mount Zion.

Why is this significant? You’ve read about Zion in the Scriptures and heard the name. So what is Zion? Harold Mare sums it up as “An ancient name for various parts of Jerusalem, of Judah and all the land, and also a metaphor for the people of God, at various periods, from biblical times to the modern period.”[4]  A word study on the name Zion is a worthy one, as it is used 154 times and in various ways throughout the OT, and seven times in the NT. It originated as the name of a stronghold of the Jebusites that David conquered, mentioned in 2 Sam. 5:7, from which “the city of David,” Jerusalem, would grow. Thus, the name Zion would come to be used to refer to the whole city of Jerusalem (e.g. Ps. 14:7). It was also used as a reference to the temple mount (e.g. Ps. 20:2; Isa. 18:7). Sometimes, Zion refers to the tribe of Judah, the land of Judah, and even the whole of Israel (Ps. 78:68; 126:1). Jerusalem is also poetically referred to as the “daughter of Zion” with its inhabitants called the “sons of Zion” (e.g. 2 Kgs. 19:21; Ps. 9:14; Ps. 149:2). But, relative to our passage today, Zion was a place that represented a hopeful outlook for Israel where the Lord lived with his people (particularly seen in the Psalms and Prophets). Indeed, like the prophet Obadiah envisioned, Zion would be the holy place (“my holy mountain”) where the Lord would live with his people, whom he had delivered, establishing his reign over the nations.

So, when we come to the NT, Zion is mentioned seven times, mostly in OT quotations,[5] with five of those references said to be fulfilled in Christ Jesus.[6] Zion is also in context where, in Rom. 10:13, Paul quotes Joel 2:32, applying the first part of the verse to all Christians (Jew and Gentile), who are the inheritors of God’s covenant: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Joel 2:32 immediately continues, saying, “For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.” And Rev. 14:1 (also Heb. 12:22-24) seems to hearken to this latter part of Joel 2:32, with Mount Zion, the Lord, and the remnant.

Now, some have argued that Zion, in Rev. 14:1, is a reference to Zion on earth. However, the language of the passage does not demand that understanding, and the context of the passage indicates something more complex. When John wrote Revelation, Jerusalem and the physical Temple were still standing. This vision of the elect Jews on Mount Zion with Christ Jesus standing among them is put in contrast to the corrupt high-priestly aristocracy established in the Temple in Jerusalem (on Mount Zion) and the Jews under its sway. So for those of the 144,000 who might physically be in Jerusalem, or even in the temple at some point prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, this more speaks to their spiritual reality with Christ. As we read in Heb. 12:22-24, speaking to the reality of every believer:

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

This is how we should understand the Zion mentioned in Rev. 14. As Milton S. Terry explains: “The Mount Zion is here to be understood as the heavenly Zion, the seat of the new Jerusalem which is above and which is our mother (Gal. 4:26). On this holy mountain is to rise the new temple of God in the heaven ([Rev.]11:19).”[7]

So, the point of Rev. 14:1 is to show that the Lord is with his people and his people are with him—with a particular emphasis on the 144,000. The Lord stands established and firm, watching over and caring for his people. As the Psalmist declares: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Such is the Lord standing on Mount Zion with his people, and John’s description of his vision describes the reality of the situation in terms that would ensure people understood the fulfilled prophecy and metaphysical dimensions of it. And while true for the 144,000, so it is true for all the Lord’s people. We are united with Christ. And like we are seated, even now, with him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), we have come to him, so are with him, on Mount Zion (Heb. 12:22), the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 9).

And what this means is that you and I (every Christian) are eternally secure in the Lord’s presence and care, despite whatever attacks come against us, as his people. This passage is meant to be a comforting picture for the persecuted church. And we can find comfort in it, no matter what we’re going through in this life.

Now, moving on, in vv. 2-5, the apostle’s vision expounds upon and confirms the identity of the 144,000 with the Lamb. But first off, there is the voice and new song from heaven, in vv. 2-3:

And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

In contrast to the vision of Mt. Zion, John now, rather than seeing a vision, hears a voice. And it is a voice of musical song that washes over the scene. The passage does not say from whom the voice emanates, and the description of the voice in v. 2 does not definitively identify who is singing (as elements of the description are elsewhere attributed to different sources—like Jesus,  a seeming multitude of voices, and the four creatures and twenty-four elders).[8] Essentially, there is repeating and overlapping imagery used for sounds, voices, new songs, and music, in Revelation.

Yet positionally, we have a clue to the singers identity. The new song is coming from the very throne room of God, but does not come from the creatures and elders, like in 5:9-10. Rather, the voice in Rev. 14:2-3 comes from before the throne and before the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. Well, positionally, who fits that bill? In ch. 4:5, before the throne were “burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God” (identified, when we studied the passage, as symbolizing the Holy Spirit). And positionally, the Spirit would have been before the creatures and the elders, who were all arrayed around the throne, with the Father and the Spirit at the center. Then, in ch. 5:6, the Lamb (Jesus) was standing before the throne and before the elders, described as having seven eyes, representing the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth (whom we also identified as symbolizing the Holy Spirit). But the voice was not that of the Lamb, who, in Rev. 14:1, is not standing in the throne room. He is standing on Zion with the 144,000. The voice is emanating from the heavenly throne room to be heard where he is, on Mount Zion.

So, the voice does not come from the throne of the Father; nor is it the voice of the Lamb; nor is it the creatures and elders; and it is not the multitude from all the nations (in 7:9) or the hosts of angels, as only the 144,000 can learn the song. Thus, it seems that the voice must be the voice of the Holy Spirit, described as the seven spirits of God, in ch. 4, v. 5. And Rev. 14:3 says and “they were singing a new song.” The person of the Spirit of God, as the Nicene Creed puts it, proceeds from the Father and the Son, so this perhaps touches on trinitarian complexities. [9] But the divine solution seems to fit. Doesn’t it make sense that it would be the Spirit of God, who is the seal of the 144,000, who is represented as the name of the Lamb and the Father written on the foreheads of the 144,000, and who indwells his people in the most intimate way imaginable, that would be the one to give them a new song that only they could learn?

As it was, the song had a dramatic effect. I’m sure we can envision the drama as if it was a short from a movie with the scene on the mountain and the music and song enhancing the mood. Terry comments on the scene, saying, “New triumphs, new revelations, new eras in the kingdom of God call for new songs.” Indeed, the adventure continues, as the elect follow Jesus, with new songs to be sung, recounting their very personal journey and God’s work along the way. And like any journey, you had to be there to really get it—to really know the new song, learned by living.

So, rolling in to vv. 4 and 5, of ch. 14, we read a concentrated description of the 144,000:

It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

John highlights four things here about the 144,000: they are virgins (chaste), they follow the Lamb, they are the redeemed firstfruits of mankind, and no lie is found in their mouth. Basically, they are righteous. And, as none is righteous, no not one (Rom. 3:10), we understand that they are redeemed sinners, whose righteousness is Christ’s righteousness imputed to them (Phil. 3:9), which they received by grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-22; Eph. 2:8). Their righteousness is just like every Christian’s righteousness, a gift of Christ Jesus’ own righteousness.

Now, don’t get hung up on the virgin thing (which means they were chaste—not guilty of unlawful sexual relations). This is a plug towards the theme of the two different women represented in Revelation—the bride of Christ in her purity versus the harlot in her adultery. We’ll study the harlot later, but briefly, the harlot is Jerusalem, broadly consisting of the apostate Jews with the mark of the beast. In contrast, the bride of Christ is the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 9) consisting of God’s people, redeemed by Jesus (the bridegroom) and sealed by the Spirit. The 144,000 are a select group out of the bride, specifically Jews, who are called the “firstfruits.” Their description in vv. 4-5 indicates that, as Gentry puts it, “They are what Israel should have been. They were what Israel ideally was when God married her.”[10] The bride of God in the OT was the Jewish people. And this hearkens to Jer. 2. The Lord had already divorced the Kingdom of Israel for their unfaithfulness (Jer. 3:8). Now, he was dealing with the Kingdom of Judah, and her whoredom. So, in Jer. 2:2-3, right before blasting into her, the Lord recalls his people, his bride, when she was whole, and as he first brought her into the fold, saying, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest.” Did you pick up on the themes? Jeremiah spelled out that she (his bride) was holy to the Lord, followed the Lord, and was the firstfruits of his harvest (the very themes we find next, in Rev. 14:4-5).

As disciples of Jesus, the bride of Christ follows the Lamb of God wherever he leads. The 144,000 were the firstfruits of the Christian church, following Jesus in the manner to which he called (Mark 8:34). They kept the faith, obedient to Christ, endured suffering, persevered under persecution, and so overcame the assault of the False Prophet of the Beast. Such was the church in Jerusalem, the firstfruits from mankind, beginning with the upper room, in Acts 2, and existing in the city all the way up until the church fled to Pella (but also including the two witnesses of Rev. 11), before Jerusalem fell to the Romans (portrayed in Rev. 12:6 and 14). And perhaps, the number included all the Jews who, during that window of time, came to faith in Jesus Christ and were sealed by the Spirit, rejecting the mark of the beast. In Heb. 12:23, they are called “the firstborn.” And as Paul reminds us in Rom. 1:16, the gospel was to the Jew first. Indeed, the Jewish Christians, centered in first-century Jerusalem, before the flight to Pella and Jerusalem’s fall, made up the mother-church of Christianity. They were the first believers under the New Covenant, coming out of Old Covenant Judaism, which Jesus fulfilled, making the Old Covenant obsolete. Indeed, they were the first to inherit the Covenant of Grace, under the New Covenant, which God had been working towards throughout history (called “redemptive history”), since even before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Thus, Christ redeemed his chosen people, his bride, to be his holy people. These 144,000 were also a people of promise, God’s promise that he would not reject the Jews (Rom. 11:1, Jer. 31:37). They were the elect remnant of Israel with no lie in their mouths, hearkening to Zeph. 3:13: “The remnant of Israel shall do no iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth.” Righteous in Christ, they were holy, blameless, and their gospel testimony was true (1 Pet. 2:9; Jude 24). And thus the church grew, starting with these firstfruits, to become an innumerable harvest of both Jews and Gentiles from that time on and across the whole earth.

So, my friends, like the 144,000 were the firstfruits of the gospel out of mankind, we are of the harvest that follows. We are come unto Mt. Zion, and I daresay, we have our own new song. As we follow Jesus, as we live for him, as we adventure forward into whatever life throws at us, the Spirit is in us, and our song is sung. It is a song of salvation, forgiveness, faithfulness, perseverance, and overcoming, all with and by the power of the Spirit of God. As the Psalmist exhorts us in Ps. 96:

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

While the forces of evil rage against the King, and while we endure whatever it is life throws at us, we stand secure in the Lord’s presence, and his victory is assured. “He who sits in heaven laughs.” For as he says, “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” The Son of God has established himself among his people, unshakeable, and he protectively watches over us, preserving us for glory. He abides in us, and we abide in him.[11] So, let us take comfort in the presence of the Lord, who is with us “always, even to the end of the age.”[12] Since Jesus wins, we should be confident as we follow him.


[1] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Survey of the Book of Revelation, Video Series (Chesnee SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2012), DVD 3, lesson 17.

[2] I restructured the order Gentry put them so to go verse-by-verse through Rev. 14:1-5.

[3] Gentry, Survey, lesson 17.

[4] W. Harold Mare, “Zion (Place),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1096.

[5] Matt. 21:5; John 12:15; Rom. 9:33; 11:26; Heb. 12:22; 1 Pet. 32:6; and Rev. 14:1

[6] Cf. Isa. 28:16; 59:20; Zech. 9:9, also Ps. 14:7 and Isa. 40:9.

[7] Milton S. Terry, The Apocalypse of John (Chesnee, SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2021), 182.

[8] In ch. 1, v. 15, the Lord Jesus’ voice was described to be “like the roar of many waters.” In Rev. 19:6, John hears “what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder,” singing about the marriage supper of the Lamb. Rev. 5:9-10 describes a new song sung by “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders” …, each holding a harp.”

[9] It could be that the four creatures and the elders accompanied the voice of the Spirit with their harps (Rev. 5:8). But it seems not, as the harpists sounds is attributed to the voice before the throne and before the creatures and elders.

[10] Gentry, Survey, lesson 17.

[11] Cf. John 15:4-7.

[12] Matt. 28:17 (NASB).