One of the greatest pleasures in my recent study of the Revelation has been to discover some of the lesser known, yet Biblically rich ideas out there. These are the conclusions of commentators I had not seen in popular treatments of eschatology. One of these is Richard Bauckham’s identification of the 144, 000 as an army, which Greg Beale sees waging “ironic holy war.” The Book of Revelation pp 422 – 426 Does that sound a little dramatic; perhaps a little weird? If so, perhaps it seems strange only because of our predisposition to popular treatments of the end times, rather than thorough study of the Scriptures. Beale explains the concept of ironic holy war:
In the context of Revelation, this military force in 7:4 – 8 conquers its enemy ironically in the same way in which the Lamb has ironically conquered at the cross: by maintaining their faith through suffering, the soldiers overcome the devil. Consequently, they are those who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes (14:4).” In particular, 7:4 – 8 portrays an army ready to fight, and 7:14 interprets the manner of their fighting; they conquer in no other way than that of the Lamb, by persevering in the midst of suffering. The Book of Revelation pp 422 – 426
So, what are reasons some conclude the 144, 000 are an army?
- The portrayal of God’s people as an army fits nicely with the theme of Revelation, in which the overcomers are those who win military victory in the war between the Lamb and satan.
- The reason for a census in the Old Testament was to determine fighting strength (Numbers 1:3, 18, 20; 26: 2, 4; 1 Chronicles 27:23; 2 Samuel 24:1 – 9)
- The males of military age were counted
- The phrase “from the tribe of” echoes Numbers 1:21 & 23
- The 144, 000 are male virgins (Revelation 14:1 – 4)
- The use of thousands may also have a military connotation (David Chilton, “Israel as it was meant to be, in all its perfection, symmetry, and completeness; the holy Army of God, mustered for battle according to her thousands. 1 Chronicles 4 –7; Numbers 10:2 – 4, 35 – 36; 31:1 – 5 Days of Vengeance pp 203 – 212)
- The washing of their robes is reminiscent of the ritual of purification after warfare (Numbers 31:21 –24)
Convinced? I’m not completely, but it seems to be grounded more solidly than some of the other ideas out there and it actually enhances or gives a richer understanding to the view I hold; “John is using symbolic language to communicate the complete number of God’s people… In the end, God resolves everything completely and brings the complete number of His people (the New Jerusalem, the Bride) to complete glory.”
What if followers are an army that win by being defeated?
Ephesians 3:10-11 NIV
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When Satan physically overcame Christ on the cross, Christ spiritually overcame Satan.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Likewise, when Satan physically overcomes the Church, the Church will also spiritually overcome Satan.
They overcame him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Christ and the Church have already overcome Satan positionally, but it will come to it’s finality in the end.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Therefore, the wisdom of God displayed to Satan at the cross is being displayed at present also, but will once again be displayed in it’s entirety through the Army/Church/believing Jews in the end times when we overcome/defeat Satan by the blood of the Lamb.
Anyway, thanks for making me think.