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The remarkable chiastic organization shows that  the Book of Revelation has two climaxes, one for the first half of the book and the other for the second half (see 1: Chiastic Literary Structure). The first climax was reached at the end of chapter 13 with the image, mark and number of the beast. This shows that the first half of the book has to do with Satan’s efforts to defeat God’s kingdom. The fruits of these efforts can be seen in the progressive corruption of the church as outlined in the messages to the seven churches, Satan’s challenge to the opening of the Book of Life in chapter 5, the destructive satanic plagues of the seven trumpets, the murder of the two witnesses in chapter 11, the pursuit of the "woman" and the "remnant" in chapter 12, and the fierce attacks of the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth in chapter 13. At the climax of the first half of the book we see the full development of the character of Satan, who is represented by a miracle-working, deceptive and coercive politico- religious system which demands and enforces compliance with "religious" requirements, using economic pressure and finally the threat of death.

The corresponding climax of the second half of the book is found in chapter 14, which begins by presenting a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1). God Himself is the central figure, and although God could be depicted in innumerable ways, He presents Himself at the peak of the great controversy as Jesus, the Lamb of God. In striking contrast to the deceptive, oppressive character of Satan, God presents Himself as the self-sacrificing Savior who gave Himself for sinful humanity.

Just as the character and purpose of Satan is demonstrated by his followers in the beast system, so the Lamb is portrayed along with His representatives—the “144,000, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” This group was first introduced in chapter 7, where they were sealed in their foreheads out of “all the tribes of the children of Israel” (7:4). In chapter 11 the 144,000 appear again as the two witnesses, giving a powerful testimony to God’s people who are in Babylon (see chapter 11: 3-6 Who Are the Two Witnesses?). They appear again in 15:2-4 on the sea of glass,[1] rejoicing in their victory over the beast even as the seven last plagues are about to be poured out. They appear one last time in chapter 18, symbolized by “an angel coming down from heaven,” who cries “mightily with a loud voice” to God’s people who are in Babylon, “come out of her my people” (18:1-4)[2].

With so many important references it should not be surprising to find the 144,000 on center stage at the climax of the book. But it is important to remember that people are not the heroes of Revelation—“a Lamb standing on Mount Zion and “His Father” are the central focus. The 144,000  were hopeless sinners like everyone else, and only God’s grace led them to repentance, gave them victory over sin, and enabled them to persevere in the face of the overwhelming pressure of the time of trouble.[3] Through His grace they reveal Jesus as He truly is, exposing all the lies and misconceptions Satan has foisted on the world.

Continue to next section:    THE FATHER’S NAME ON THEIR FOREHEADS

[1]  The description of the 144,000 in chapter 14 and of the victors  in chapter 15 both mention harps. The 144,000 are standing “before the throne”. The sea of glass, where the victors are standing, is also before the throne (Revelation 4:6 7:9, 14:3).  The 144,000 give the third angel’s message to overcome “the beast and his image, and…his mark” Revelation 14:9.  Those on the sea of glass have had the victory “over the beast, over his image and over his mark” (Revelation 15:2).  The victors include both the messengers (the 144,000) and those who responded to it (the great multitude).

[2]  The message of this mighty angel is the same (come out of Babylon) as that of the 144,000 (Revelation 14:8).

[3]  See Romans 2:4, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Revelation 14:12.

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