REVELATION 14 - THE 144000 FIRSTFRUITS
In Revelation chapter 7 we are shown a group of 144000 people who are "sealed" with God's holy spirit and protected from the seven major trumpet events that follow. Here in chapter 14 we are shown this group again, where it is added that they are "firstfruits", meaning the first to receive salvation through the plan that God is working out here on Earth.
From Scriptures like I Thes 4:13-18 we know that the firstfruits receive salvation at the return of Christ. I Cor 15:52 says that this occurs "at the last trumpet", and Rev 11:15-19 shows that Christ returns at the seventh, or "last" trumpet.
Therefore, Rev 14 leads us to this very same point in soon coming history.
Let's have a look through the chapter, with my (purple) annotations.
14:1 Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads (John in a vision sees the completed firstfruits harvest at the time of Christ's return).
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.
3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.
4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men (during the six thousand years of man's time under Satan), being firstfruits (the first group to be saved) to God and to the Lamb.
5 And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God (their sins have been forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ).
6 Then (to show how the 144000 come into being) I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people
7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (this is the gospel message being preached since the time of Christ, the message that the firstfruits both respond to and proclaim, by which process they become part of the 144000).
8 And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (the gospel goes out into a world that is entrenched in false religion, typified by the original pagan Babylon, "fallen" at the time of John's writing, and "Babylon the Great", i.e. false Christianity, still future at the time of John's writing, but destined to fall as well).
9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast (in the Laodicean era, worship of the Beast mostly comes in the form of adopting practices and beliefs from false Christianity, i.e. the eighth head of the Beast. See the page "THE CATHOLIC COG") and his image (Satan's image or nature), and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand (lawlessness, specifically Sabbath breaking),
10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast (accept its teachings and practices) and his image (those who love Satan's nature, rather than God's nature), and whoever receives the mark of his name (that mark, Sabbath breaking, being an observable sign of their rejection of God)”.
12 Here is the patience of the saints (here are the enduring righteous ones, the 144000); here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (the standards by which all are judged).
13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on" (from the time of writing, the two thousand years of the Church eras, until Christ's return when the 144000 will be born into the family of God). “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (when they receive their reward).
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man (Christ), having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth (true spiritual Israel) is ripe”.
16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped (the spiritual harvest of the 144000 firstfruits at Christ's return).
17 Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18 And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine (God's people are described as a vine) of the earth (all Israel), for her grapes are fully ripe”.
19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God (at Christ's return, the wrath of God is poured out on all Israel who have rejected Christ, described in the seventh trumpet as "destroy those who destroy the earth").
20 And the winepress was trampled outside the city (Jerusalem, to where Christ returns), and blood came out of the winepress (the fate of the unrighteous), up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs (the English word "furlongs" is the word "stadia" in the original Greek. A "stadion" (sing.) equals approximately 180 metres, so 1600 stadia works out to be about 288 kilometres. This is the approximate distance between Dan and Beersheba, which in Scripture is used nine times to denote the full length of inhabited Israel, as for instance in I Sam 3:20. Thus, the expression "1600 stadia" may well be symbolically indicating judgement proceeding from the land of Israel, or, on the land of Israel).
Other than the group of 144000 firstfruits, Revelation chapter 7 speaks additionally of a "great multitude" which comes out of "great tribulation". This group is also shown to be receiving salvation. Rev 14, however, is silent about this group. Only when these events come to pass will they be able to be understood in full.