The turmoil of conflict is over, and the people of God, 144,000 strong, now stand triumphantly with the Lamb on Mount Zion. They have his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads (v. 1), most emphatically not "the mark of the beast" (13:17). The two beasts of the preceding chapter are nowhere to be seen. We are not told just how the conflict was resolved, but John gives us a momentary glimpse of its outcome. Mount Zion (occurring only here in the book of Revelation) is a place on earth, not in heaven, for the voice heard next is a voice from heaven (v. 2). Zion was the name of the mountain on which David built the earthly Jerusalem centuries before, and whenever John refers to "the holy city" or "the new Jerusalem" in the Revelation (3:12; 21:2, 10), it is always "coming down out of heaven from God," and therefore located on earth. Up to this point in the visions, "mountains" have been pictured as either threatened (6:14-16) or threatening (8:8), but Mount Zion is a place of victory and rest for the 144,000.
This group of the redeemed includes both the 144,000 Israelites from 7:1-8 and the "great multitude that no one could count" from 7:9-17. Just as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (5:5) remained in some sense a lion even after he had been transformed into the Lamb (5:6), so the 144,000 continue to be the 144,000 even after their transformation into an unnumbered crowd. They have lost their explicit identification with the twelve Jewish tribes listed in 7:5-8, but they have gained other distinguishing features.
They are identified first as those redeemed from the earth, and their reward is the privilege of learning a new song (v. 3). Because they are redeemed, there is reason to believe that redemption will be the theme of their song. The only "new song" mentioned before in Revelation was that of the living creatures and elders in heaven (5:9), and it was a song of redemption: "because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." It was accompanied by the music of harps (5:8), and the word for "purchased" in its lyrics was the same word used here of the 144,000 in the phrase redeemed from the earth (v. 4). This time the song comes not from the living creatures and elders themselves, but from an anonymous voice from heaven in their presence, like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder, and like that of harpists playing their harps (v. 2). Both the words and the music are left to our imaginations.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.