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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 14 - Verse 4

Verse 4. These are they. In this verse, and in the following verse, the writer states the leading characteristics of those who are saved. The general idea is, that they are chaste; that they are the followers of the Lamb; that they are redeemed from among men; and that they are without guile.

Which were not defiled with women. Who were chaste. The word defiled here determines the meaning of the passage, as denoting that they were not guilty of illicit intercourse with women. It is unnecessary to show that this is a virtue everywhere required in the Bible, and everywhere stated as among the characteristics of the redeemed. On no point are there more frequent exhortations in the Scriptures than on this; on no point is there more solicitude manifested that the professed friends of the Saviour should be without blame. Compare Barnes on "Ac 15:20; Ro 1:24-32; 1 Co 6:18; Heb 13:4".

See also 1 Co 5:1; 6:13; Ga 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Th 4:3, This passage cannot be adduced in favour of celibacy, whether among the clergy or laity, or in favour of monastic principles in any form; for the thing that is specified is that they were not "defiled with women," and a lawful connexion of the sexes, such as marriage, is not defilement. See Barnes on "Heb 13:4".

The word here rendered defiledemolunyhsan, from molunw—is a word that cannot be applied to the marriage relation. It means properly to soil, to stain, to defile. 1 Co 8:7: "Their conscience being weak, is defiled." Re 3:4: "Which have not defiled their garments." The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament, except in the passage before us, and it will be seen at once that it cannot be applied to that which is lawful and proper, and consequently that it cannot be construed as an expression against marriage and in favour of celibacy. It is a word that is properly expressive of illicit intercourse—of impurity and unchastity of life—and the statement is, that they who are saved are not impure and unchaste.

For they are virgins. paryenoi. This is the masculine form, but this form is found in the later Greek and in the Christian fathers. See Suidas and Suicer, Thes. The meaning of the word, when found in the feminine form, is well understood. It denotes a virgin, a maiden, and thence it is used to denote that which is chaste and pure: virgin modesty; virgin gold; virgin soil; virgin blush; virgin shame. The word in the masculine form must have a similar meaning as applied to men, and may denote

(a) those who are unmarried;

(b) those who are chaste and pure in general. The word is applied by Suidas to Abel and Melchizedek. "The sense," says De Wette, in loc., "cannot be that all these 144,000 had lived an unmarried life; for how could the apostle Peter, and others who were married, have been excluded? But the reference must be to those who held themselves from all impurity— unkeuschheit und hurerei—which, in the view of the apostles, was closely connected with idolatry." Compare Bleek, Beitr. i. 185. Prof. Stuart supposes that the main reference here is to those who had kept themselves from idolatry, and who were thus pure. It seems to me, however, that the most obvious meaning is the correct one, that it refers to the redeemed as chaste, and thus brings into view one of the prominent things in which Christians are distinguished from the devotees of nearly every other form of religion, and, indeed, exclusively from the world at large. This passage, also, cannot be adduced in favour of the monastic system, because

(a) whatever may be said anywhere of the purity of virgins, there is no such commendation of it as to imply that the married life is impure;

(b) it cannot be supposed that God meant in any way to reflect on the married life as in itself impure or dishonourable;

(c) the language does not demand such an interpretation; and

(d) the facts in regard to the monastic life have shown that it has had very little pretensions to a claim of virgin purity.

These are they which follow the Lamb. This is another characteristic of those who are redeemed—that they are followers of the Lamb of God. That is, they are his disciples; they imitate his example; they obey his instructions; they yield to his laws; they receive him as their counsellor and their guide. See Barnes on "Joh 10:3, See Barnes "Joh 3:27".

 

Whithersoever he goeth. As sheep follow the shepherd. Compare Ps 23:1-2. It is one characteristic of true Christians that they follow the Saviour wherever he leads them. Be it into trouble, into danger, into difficult duty; be it in Christian or heathen lands; be it in pleasant paths, or in roads rough and difficult, they commit themselves wholly to his guidance, and submit themselves wholly to his will.

These were redeemed from among men. This is another characteristic of those who are seen on Mount Zion. They are there because they are redeemed, and they have the character of the redeemed. They are not there in virtue of rank or blood, (Joh 1:13;) not on the ground of their own works, (Tit 3:5;) but because they are redeemed unto God by the blood of his Son. See Barnes on "Re 5:9"; See Barnes "Re 5:10".

None will be there of whom it cannot be said that they are "redeemed;" none will be absent who have been truly redeemed from sin.

Being the first-fruits unto God. On the meaning of the word first-fruits, see Barnes on "1 Co 15:20".

The meaning here would seem to be, that the hundred and forty-four thousand were not to be regarded as the whole of the number that was saved, but that they were representatives of the redeemed. They had the same characteristics which all the redeemed must have; they were a pledge that all the redeemed would be there. Prof. Stuart supposes that the sense is, that they were, as it were, "an offering peculiarly acceptable to God." The former explanation, however, meets all the circumstances of the case, and is more in accordance with the usual meaning of the word.

And to the Lamb. They stood there as redeemed by him, thus honouring him as their Redeemer, and showing forth his glory.

{h} "virgins" So 1:3; 6:8; 2 Co 11:2

{a} "follow the lamb" Joh 10:27 {1} "redeemed" "bought" 1 Co 6:20 {b} "first fruits" Jas 1:18

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