A select choir, these 144,000 redeemed souls with the Father’s name – the Father’s name! – written on their heads. No one else can learn their song. Purchased from among men and a firstfruit (that means Grade A Fancy to this Vermonter) offering to God and the Lamb. On earth blameless, sexually pure, never lying. In heaven they follow the Lamb wherever He goes – remember Jesus saying “my sheep know my name”? – and sing this awesome, hidden new song.
Who are they? Not me. I don’t meet the criteria. Oh, I’ll be redeemed and in heaven. But these folks are in the Heavenly Hall of Fame. The pick of the litter. I think they are the real Saints. Not the New Orleans Saints – although maybe Tim Tebow? Not necessarily the Roman Catholic saints, although probably some of them will be there too. I think they are the Saints of the Catholic (all-embracing) Church.
Three angels…..maybe the same three angelic visitors to Abraham among the great oaks of Mamre, at least two of whom then visited Sodom and Gomorrah. Alas their welcome is just as inhospitable. For one last time the gospel goes forth – from the mouth of an angel! – proclaiming from mid-air to every nation, tribe, language and people in a loud voice, “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of judgment has come! Worship Him!” John predicts no 11th hour mass conversion, just two more angels warning against judgment and WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T TAKE THE MARK OF THE BEAST! Because just as the saints with the Father’s name on their heads are eternally blessed, those with the beast’s mark will burn in sulfur forever in the presence of the angels and the Lamb.
Clearly refusing the mark will be a struggle for some. Once again John says: “this calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they will rest from their labor, and their deeds (the good ones) will follow them.