- They have not been defiled with women—they are virgins.
- They follow the Lamb.
- They have been redeemed as first fruits.
- They do not lie.
- They are blameless.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
I APOLOGIZE FOR THE EXTREME TIME SINCE THE LAST ARTICLE. I COULD GIVE YOU EXCUSES, BUT I MUST STAND GUILTY OF JUST TAKING TOO LONG TO GET THIS DONE.
Scripture from English Standard Version unless noted otherwise
1. The last vision, in chapter 13, concerned the second of two beasts. This second beast is the false prophet who leads people into worship of the first Beast. They are persuaded or coerced into taking upon themselves—on their hand or their forehead—the Mark of the Beast. Now John has a new vision: of the One whom the two beasts oppose and of His followers. This One is the Lamb, which is His appellation throughout Revelation. He is described in 5:6 as “a lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” So, this is the Lamb of God who, through the sacrifice of Himself, had taken away the sin of the world (see John 1:29). And His arch-enemy Satan has raised up two who bitterly oppose Him and His people. In this new vision, the Lamb is standing on Mount Zion. With the Lamb are 144,000. These are not necessarily identified as men, but later, in verse 14:4, further description reveals them to be men. They have an identifying mark on their foreheads—not the Mark of the Beast, but the name of two persons, of the Lamb and of the Father.
It is obvious that this verse is meant to contrast to the implied stance of the earth-dwellers. They are of the earth and have made their dwelling and their identity there. The 144,000 are on Mount Zion, which is the place of the Holy City. This bit of geography is where the Temple was located, where David built his palace, where the capital of the people of God was located. It is not an impressive mountain compared to the great mountains of the world, but it is important not for its altitude, but for its symbolic value as the place where God meets His people. So, we have, in Psalm 48:1-2:
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
Moreover, the earth-dwellers follow after the Beast and have his Mark on them; whereas the 144,000 follow the Lamb and have His name and His Father’s name on them.
The 144,000 were mentioned earlier, in 7:1-8. I discussed that passage in my post of May 23, 2014 (“A Survey of Revelation, Part 7C”). In that article I concluded that this group of 144,000 represents the church at the very beginning of the Tribulation period. In that passage seals are placed on their forehead (7:3-4). Now, in 14:1, that seal is revealed to include the names of the Lamb and His Father.
John describes the sound that he hears in association with this visual image. It is the sound of harpists playing their harps, so loudly that they remind him of “many waters” and of thunder. There are two other pertinent mentions of harps and harp-players in Revelation (and none elsewhere—other references are not pertinent to this situation). In 5:8, the ones who have harps are the four living “creatures” and the “24 elders.” These I have identified as angelic creatures closely associated with the throne. The other group with harps is a group of people who are described in 15:2 as those who have conquered the Beast and are standing beside a sea of glass. As I tentatively approach the present passage in chapter 14, I ask, “What is significance of the sound of the harps?” Is this “background music” to the scene before us? Is it music that the 144,000 are creating? Is it from heaven or on earth? With these questions in mind, we move to the next verse.
This verse seems to answer the question of who are playing the harps—it is the 144,000. They are singing, and the implication is that they are singing in addition to playing harps. They are singing a new song. There are references to a “new song” in Psalms:
33:3 Sing to him l a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
40:3 He put a a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
144:9 I will sing a a new song to you, O God; upon a a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
There is also a “new song” that is sung in Revelation 5:9 by the 24 elders and the four living creatures. Singing a new song implies that one has something new to sing about, to celebrate. We are told that this song is unique to the 144,000; only they may sing it. This implies that these people have a unique experience that qualifies them to celebrate through a new song.
This verse identifies the location of the group as before the four living animals (creatures) and before the elders as well as before the throne. The implication is that they are in heaven. This seems to contradict the statement in verse 1 that they are on Mount Zion. We can interpret that in two ways. One is that their physical location is Mount Zion on earth, but their spiritual presence is in heaven. (See, for example, Ephesians 2:6: “and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”) The alternative is that their physical/spiritual location is in heaven and that Mount Zion is regarded as part of heaven. (See Hebrews 12:22-23: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.”)
The reason they are uniquely qualified to sing this new song is because they have been “redeemed from the earth.” Throughout Revelation there is a dualism between those who are earth-dwellers and the people of God. It seems that the “earth-dwellers” are not designated this simply because they inhabit the physical planet earth. Rather, they are those who are caught in systemic evil of the earth. To be redeemed from the earth is to be delivered from that evil. However, those who are redeemed are also in direct opposition to the Beast, who is making war on the saints. So, to be redeemed through Christ is a death sentence for many. The additional material in this passage implies that this is exactly the fate of these 144,000. However, they are not singing a new song about their death sentence, I believe. They are singing a song of praise to the Lamb who has redeemed them out of the evil that destroys.
The first three verses of the chapter can be thought of as the consequences and the last two verses are the cause. The consequences are that the 144,000 enjoy the presence of the Lamb, have His name, and sing a new song. The cause for this celebration is the set of characteristics that they display:
I do not think that their condition as virgins—as being undefiled by women—should be taken as a rejection of marriage. The consistent Judeo-Christian position has been that intimate heterosexual relations within marriage is undefiled. Hebrews 13:4 affirms that intimacy in marriage is to be honored and kept pure by avoiding extramarital sex. In its translation of Revelation 14:4a, it seems to me that NIV is not consistent with Scripture nor true to the words of the passage as they render 14:4a as follows: “These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins.” ESV translates the second clause: “for they are virgins.” This is a literal translation. It is consistent with Scripture by not implying that marriage would defile these men.
Thus, these men are described as undefiled by women because they are single men who have not engaged in relations with women; that is, they are virgins. If they were married in a proper way, they would still be undefiled, but they would not be virgins. This is their calling, and it is not to be construed as the only way that people can honor Christ with their bodies. Men and women who are properly married can serve Christ and bring glory to Him. (Many of the ancient commentators regarded virginity as a high calling. See below in the section on commentators.)
The second characteristic of these men is that they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Jesus described discipleship as follows:
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
The third characteristic is that they have been “redeemed from mankind as first fruits.” Following Strong’s concordance, I note that the two Old Testament Hebrew words for “first fruits” have different connotations. One emphasizes the earliness of the fruit—like a child pushing to be born early. The other emphasizes the leadership role of the fruit—it leads the rest of the harvest. Very likely the latter idea is inherent in Revelation 14:4. The fact that they are designated as first fruits signals to us that they indeed are martyrs, and their martyrdom is a sacrifice unto God (as all Christian martyrdom is, and as our lives should be: see Romans 12:1).
The fourth characteristic is that they do not lie . There is little that can be elaborated on concerning this trait. However, truth-telling can bring trouble to people. All too often we (myself) keep silent or even dissimulate in order to avoid revealing our true thoughts and beliefs. The fact that these men are martyrs is no doubt because they have told the truth and refused to hide their loyalty to Christ.
The fifth characteristic is that they are blameless—or without defect. This Greek word refers to sacrifices that are without defect. These men’s characters are without defect.
If we consider that chapter 13 has depicted the situation on the earth dominated by the Beast and his False Prophet, we can understand a dramatic contrast. The environment of earth is one in which the Beast is worshiped as god, and such worship is demanded of all. A symbol of devotion to the Beast is having his Mark on one’s hand or forehead. The whole world is walking around bearing the Mark. Without the Mark people cannot buy or sell. Those who do not worship the Beast are killed. Now, here stand tall against this background 144,000 men who have on them the names of Jesus and the Father. They are undefiled sexually and blameless in their character. They follow Jesus and are willing to admit it. Very likely, they share the gospel with their neighbors. Because they have defied the Beast, they are killed. They are disciples of Jesus who have taken up the cross that leads to their death. Their death is a fitting offering unto God, a first-fruit sacrifice that will be followed by others.
Now, because of their sacrifice they are in the direct presence of the Lamb of God, Jesus of Nazareth. They are in the heavenly Mount Zion and have been given a new song, one that uniquely theirs. The earth-dwellers still have physical breath in their lungs, but they are enslaved to the Beast and cannot escape. Their are entrapped in the world-system of sin—immorality, hate, violence, theft, and false religion. This group of 144,000 were redeemed from that system through the blood of Jesus. Now they have entered into their eternal reward and enjoy the presence of Jesus.
CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY:
Verses 14:1-5 focus on a group of martyrs who are singing their own unique song in the presence of Jesus in heavenly Zion. Their purity of life and devotion to the Lamb of God is rewarded by the new song that only they can sing. They contrast sharply with the earth-dwellers who have taken the mark of the Beast. Instead they bear on their foreheads the name of the Father and of the Lamb. The contrast between Christians and the earth-dwellers is also a theme in the remainder of the chapter. See especially verses 14:9-13.
He understands this scene to be “anticipatory”—after “three and a half years of persecution.” He gives a number of references, both in the Old Testament canon and in the apocrypha, in which a gathering of God’s people on Mount Zion is predicted, for example in Micah 4:6-8 and Joel 2:32. He refers to a passage in II Esdras 2:42-48 which is very similar to Revelation 14:1-5. He answers the question: “Is this scene in heaven or on earth?” by “both.” They are martyrs in heaven, but the scene anticipates “the time when the Messiah will establish his kingdom on earth.” He concludes that the group in this scene is the same group that is described in 7:3-8. In that passage the seal is mentioned, and in 14:1 it is defined to be the names of the Father and the Lamb. He also concludes that this group is the same as the multitude of 7:9-17. He notes the contrast of the seals on the men of 14:1-5 to the mark of the Beast.
He discusses the celibacy of the 144,000. He states that, if this is “taken literally,” “this description might distinguish them from the earlier groups in ch. 7.” I cannot see how that is true, since no mention of married men is found in chapter 7. Nevertheless, because of this consideration, he refers to another commentator, R. H. Charles, who “would eliminate the words as a monkish interpolation, even though they are supported by the earliest textual evidence.” He solves this by considering their celibacy to be a metaphor “as a symbol of the ‘spotless’ character of the martyrs who had not participated in idolatry, which is frequently compared with immorality and fornication.”
I made a quick survey of Old and New Testaments of the words (in Young’s concordance) for “adultery,” “adulterer,” and so forth as well “fornication,” “fornicator,” and so forth. Of these references, I found 59 were non-metaphorical, 22 were metaphorical, and 11 were ambiguous or uncertain to me as to their use. The use in Revelation is most prominent in reference to the woman who represents Babylon in chapters 17 and 18. Probably the use in those chapters especially refers to the unholy alliance of “Babylon” with the kings of the earth as well as the general nature of the uncleanness of Babylon. In chapter 2:14 the sin of Balaam is separated into two parts—idolatry and sexual immorality. This same separation is found in 2:20 in reference to “Jezebel.” Note that the two sins are separate, but they are linked together. In the Old Testament, sexual sin was often linked with idolatry, especially because cult prostitutes were often involved in pagan worship. So, The celibacy of the 144,000 is probably both a reference to their sexual purity and to their rejection of idolatry—most notably worship of the Beast and his image.
He notes the contrast between these men and the followers of the Beast. One group had the name of the Beast and the other the name of the Father and of the Lamb. The latter are “marked with the mark of God.”
Their presence on Mount Zion is a sign of their deliverance. He discusses whether this is earthly Mount Zion. His reasoning is that to be on earthly Mount Zion would mean the scene is from the “millennial reign.” But, he says, this would “mean that the Lamb would have made the transition from heaven to earth without any comment made on it.” I do not think that that is a very strong point because this whole scene is not tethered to a time line very well. He further argues that “John appears to be referring to the final triumph and not anything intermediate.” Exactly how he determines that it is a final triumph is not clear, nor is it clear why a final triumph would eliminate earth.
He believes that the number 144,000 is a “number of completeness” and that it “stands for the whole church” and not “for a spiritual elite of any sort, such as the martyrs.” He refers to his comments on 5:9 in which he describes the use of the Greek “kainos” rather than “neos” for “new.” The former adjective emphasizes the quality of freshness whereas the latter the quality of recentness. So, this is a fresh song. It is one that no one can sing without “the experience of redemption.”
He notes that there are three “these” in verse 4, which draw attention to “three distinguishing marks of this group.” He considers the first “these,” that they “were defiled with women” (King James Version): This he finds “surprising.” This is because it would not apply to women in the church. Moreover, he observes that sexual relationships within marriage is honored in the New Testament. The follow-up, that “they are virgins” would not apply to men. It is the only use of “virgin” in the New Testament to apply to males. He believes that these characteristics are symbolic. He notes that the church is considered the bride of Christ, and such a bride would be a virgin before the marriage is consummated. Moreover, the virginity of this group means that they “have kept themselves completely free from intercourse with the pagan world system. They have lived up to what is implied in their betrothal to Christ.”
The second “these” is that they follow Christ wherever He leads. “They do not and cannot lay down the place where their service will take them. He leads.”
The third “these” is their redemption as firstfruits. He notes that the first part of the harvest was considered holy, and that “these” “belonged to God.”
The final characteristic (not a “these”) of the group is that they do not lie.
The summation is that the group is “spotless.” He notes that “sacrificial victims” were required to be spotless, “so there may be a hint that Christian service is sacrificial.”
Ladd reminds us of the context of chapter 14. It is part of a series of visions that are inserted between two groups of seven—the seven trumpets and the seven bowls. The seventh trumpet “brought us to the very time of the end (10:7). The seven bowls will be an “outpouring…of God’s wrath” which just precedes the “coming of the end.” So, we have the following scheme:
1. Seventh trumpet: the end (10:7)
2. Series of visions (10:8-14:20)
3. Seven bowls of wrath (15:1-16:21)
4. The end: including fall of Babylon and the rider on the white horse (17:1-19:21)
The series of vision (number 2) “represent to [John] that the end time will be the final manifestation of the age-long struggle between the Kingdom of God and the power of Satan.” In chapter 14, after receiving these visions of spiritual warfare, “just before the outpouring” of wrath (number 3 above), John receives reassurance. He is “assured that the consummation is in God’s hands…” This is the gist of chapter 14.
He considers verses 14:1-5 to be “proleptic…and picture the destiny of the people of God…who have fallen prey to the wrath of the beast. They are seen in the messianic Kingdom.
Most commentators, including Ladd, note the contrast between those who have received the mark of the Beast and those who have the “mark of God.” He considers that they are victims of the Beast. He says that this group is “a repetition of the vision of the great multitude in 7:9-17, who have come through [the Tribulation]…” The vision of 14:1-5 is a “reassurance of their final victory.”
In his comments on chapter 14, Ladd does not mention the 144,000 that are described in 7:3-8, but identifies the 144,000 of chapter 14 with the “great multitude” of 7:9-17. In his discussion of chapter 7, he concludes that the group in 7:3-8 is identical with the group in 7:9-17. The first description (7:3-8) is at the beginning of the Tribulation, when believers are sealed. The second description (7:9-17) is after the tribulation. (Ladd, 117—see 110-120) Since he has already worked through his interpretation of the identities of the 144,000 and the great multitude, he simply identifies the 144,000 of chapter 14 with the great multitude of 7:9-17—which he has already established is the same as the 144,000 of 7:3-8.
He considers the possibility that Mount Zion is a symbol of “deliverance and victory,” and refers to Psalm 2. However, he concludes that it is “more likely” that it represents “the eschatological victory” and the New Jerusalem.
He considers the new song to be about redemption and a song for the redeemed and yet he does not believe it is sung by people, but, rather, by angels for the redeemed.
He discusses the possible meaning of the reference to chastity or virginity. He rejects the idea that these 144,000 are a “special class of Christians” who have not married in order to keep themselves pure, because this “would be a denial of the whole biblical theology” that sexual relations within marriage is holy. Instead, he believes that the group is described as chaste or as virgins because “they have refused to defile themselves by participating in the fornication of worshiping the beast but have kept themselves pure unto God.”
He regards “following the Lamb” to imply that they are loyal and “follow him even unto death.”
He notes that “firstfruits” often implies a part of the harvest and reinforces the idea that this group is a “select class of Christians,” an idea which he resists. In support of his thought, he notes that James 1:18 uses the term to refer to all Christians and Jeremiah 2:3 refers to all of Israel. He considers then that the term is used to describe the group’s “total consecration unto God.”
The group is a spotless sacrifice to the Lord. Truthfulness is the hallmark of their “faultless dedication.” “The redeemed, like their Lord, are utterly sincere and guileless (I Pet. 2:22).”
Metzger notes that Revelation has a pattern of “alternation of sharp contrasts between scenes of frightful horror and scenes of welcome security.” Thus, 14:1-5 is a “scene of tranquility and rejoicing.” The number 144,000 is a “symbolic number” of “all those who remain faithful.” He is consistent with other commentators in regarding the reference to virginity to mean this group “are those who have not defiled themselves by participating in pagan worship.”
ROWLAND 9 (664-665)
He understands Zion to be “a site of salvation” and “of God’s presence.” He notes the “unusual Christologic conjunction” of the names of the Lamb and His Father on the foreheads of the 144,000. He joins others in noting the contrast of this group with those who have the mark of the Beast.
He begins by taking seriously the virginity of the 144,000 men. He notes: “Sexual activity can cause uncleaness (Lev. 15:18)…” However, he asks: “Does John here bear witness to a misogynist, male-only world…?” He answers that “we should read this description…metaphorically…” The “idiom…is used to evoke…purity.” The group is “an army of people who are in a state of ritual purity, appropriate for those who fight a holy war (Deut 23:9ff.; 1 Sam 21:5; 2 Sam 11:9ff.; 1QM 7:3ff.)” These Biblical references are all statements of the need for ritual purity when people are in a state of war. The last reference is to the War Scroll in the Dead Sea scrolls and the passage does call for ritual purity in preparation for battle. (Wise et al, 154) He also notes that the opposite condition—fornication—is a “metaphor for idolatry (e.g., 2:14, 21).” He considers, however, that it is a “difficulty” that “the metaphor of defilement with women is being used” for dedication to a cause. He notes that this language reflects “the profound distaste throughout this book with whatever is ambiguous, mixed, or a compromise (cf. 3:15).”
In contrast to Ladd, he believes that the description of the group as first fruits means that “this is not the sum total of the elect but a foretase of that great harvest of the elect, which is still to be revealed.” The group speaks nothing unfruitful in “contrast with what comes forth from the mouth of the beast…”
He considers that these verses (14:1-5) contain “military imagery.” I cannot see any military imagery whatever, except the call to purity, which is not limited to military situations. In fact it is far more prominently a preparation for worship, and worship is quite evident as the group sings their new song “before the throne.” (14:3) Insisting on this military theme, Rowland goes back to the War Scroll which contains “the inventory of preparations necessary for the fight between the sons of light and the sons of darkness.” In this battle, “it is apparent that this battle is not between humans alone but between angelic forces who fight alongside humans (cf. Josh 5:13-14).” He also refers to Ephesians 6:10 for a “battle conducted without weapons and rooted in the triumph of the Lamb (14:1)…” He concludes that the “warfare of the elect is conducted with other weapons: endurance, witness, prophecy, obedience to God, and remaining loyal to Jesus (14:12).” These are good points, but I am not sure how pertinent they are to verses 14:1-5.
Some ancient commentators believe the 144,000 are the Jews who come to faith in the end times. (Victorinus of Petovium) Oecumenius believes the Lord on Mount Zion “represents the conversion of Israel by faith in the last days.” He bases this on Isaiah 59:20 and Romans 11:25-26. However, he argues 144,000 does not correspond to the group in 7:3ff, because there is no article and virginity (which he believes was rare among ancient Jews) is not mentioned in the earlier passage. Therefore, he concludes that this group in 14:1-5 is a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, with the Gentiles in the majority.
Andrew of Caesarea has a different take. Mount Zion is not the ancient city but the “new city of the living God.” The group is the “full harvest of the apostolic seed” or the “perfect fruit of those being saved” or Christians who are chaste inside and out. He argues, as above, that ancients were rarely virgins, so this group does not correspond to strictly Jews as (he implies) 7:3ff does.
Bede contrasts the mark of the Beast with the church, which is symbolized by this group. He also contrasts the Beast on the sand with the Lamb on Mount Zion. The “finite number” represents an “infinite number” of Christians. They are consecrated to God in body, soul, and spirit. The number of 144,000 is a perfect number: 3 X 3 = 9, 4 X 4 = 16,
9 X 16 = 144. This is a reassurance of the perfection of the church, though they have been living in “a more difficult life.” (I assume the Tribulation.) The names on their foreheads contrast with “the mark on the forehead of the body of the beast.”
For Bede, Mount Zion represents the church itself. It is being encouraged in its affliction by the “sublime joy of the contemplation of her king. The saints render themselves sacrifices and “take up the cross” as they follow the Lamb.
Andrew of Caesarea comments on the “clarity” of the singing and the “harmonious and melodious euphony of their song.” This group is an “assembly and festal gathering of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.” Their song is accomplished by the “dying of the desires of the body.”
Oecumenius believes that no one could learn the song except those who were “strong enough.” Knowledge (such as knowing the new song) comes according “to the measure of [one’s] purity.” These have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died for all, but not all believed but, rather, “robbed themselves of the salvation that came from [His blood].”
Andrew of Caesarea believes the knowledge of the song is “co-extensive to the measure of their behavior.” This group represents “leaders” of the church because “of their chastity and purity in word and deed…[and have] come to possess the brightness of the virtues.” “Taught by the virtues, they sing the new song, which remains unknown to most…” He and Oecumenius both refer to the “many rooms” of the Father’s house as indicative of degrees of reward in the afterlife. He completes the verse by a strong statement of salvation by grace: “…may the Lord…count us among those who are being saved through his own goodness, not regarding the multitude of our sins but his own mercies…[shedding] his…blood for us…”
Bede, interestingly, gives an interpretation of the old song and the new song. The old song was: “‘Blessed is he who has his seed in Zion and his household in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 31:9 LXX) The new song is: “Rejoice, O barren one, who did not bare.” (Isaiah 54:1)
Verse 4, with its mention of virgins, creates the most discussion among the ancient commentators. The statement that they “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” is taken by Bede (and others) to refer to their remaining virgins. This verse is considered a call to purity. Cyprian emphasizes that it refers to women as well as men. He admonishes women to be pure in their manner of dress rather than “strive to please men and offend God.” Methodius notes that 7:9ff indicates innumerable saints, but the 144,000 indicates a very small number of virgins. He considers that Jesus is the “archvirgin.” More than one commentator remarks on the obvious special blessing in eternity that these men enjoy. They believe that Scriptures such as John 14:2 (“many rooms”) and I Corinthians 15: 41-42 (varying glories of heavenly bodies) form a basis for varying degrees of reward in the afterlife.
Some, such as Jerome, consider virginity—never having had relations—to be the highest form of purity. He lists three ranks: virgins, widows, and those who are continent in marriage. Bede believes that virgins “cleave to Christ higher up in this life” and so will “enjoy a closer vision of him in that life.” They will enjoy the new song from a “special position.” Scriptural blessings on eunuchs are taken by some to refer to virgins (in Matthew 19:11-12 and Isaiah 56:4-5). At the same time, some are careful to recognize salvation by grace and the cleansing through the blood of Jesus (Bede, Fulgentius) but give special praise to virginity. However, Caesarius of Arles considers “virgins” to be the “whole church that holds to the pure faith.” He bases this on II Corinthians 11:2, which refers to the church as a virgin betrothed to Christ. This virginity is carried out by avoiding “any adulterous commixture of the heretics, nor…by the alluring yet deadly desires of this world…”
Bede makes similar arguments to Caesarius of Arles. He considers the expression that “no lie was found” is an indication that, through salvation, whatever sins had been in the believer are removed. He considers the verse to refer to all Christians and not just virgins. He quotes from I Corinthians 6:11, which reminds Christians of their past sins and of their present condition of having been cleansed. He also, like Caesarius, uses the verse as an occasion to remind virgins that physical virginity is not enough, but they must “lead a life unblemished by any infection of sin.” He concludes that “virgins” refers to all who are “chaste and pure.”
Caesarius of Arles also carefully parses the verse by noting that it says “no lie was found” in their mouths. From this he infers that a person may have lied but, if “through baptism or penance” he or she becomes a virgin and without falsehood in the “interior person,” then the Lord will not “find” such in them “when he calls forth from here…” The latter expression is unclear, but I take it to mean at the time when the Lord ends things and makes His judgment of us.
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