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Rev. 14:4,

These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

I have 2 questions regarding this passage:

1) Does the NT "Defiled with women" follow the OT understanding of ritual 'defilement' under the Ex. 19:15, where Moses commanded the people to , Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.?

2) Or, are we to understand this passage figuratively; interpreting ἀνθρώπων(anthrōpōn-men) as not "gender specific" but all men in relation to this passage?

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  • @All This passage generally is interpreted "symbolically", as contextually no credence is given to a "144,000 Male-Only" interpretation. Yet the "12 Tribes" is interpreted as being Israel, which is Literal. Why does the context change in this passage? Are we to understand "Israel" as ONLY being Israel in the 1st Century AD? Or is there "another Israel" which we haven't seen yet? – Tau Jul 11 '17 at 15:36
  • Since they are used as an example of faithfulness and purity (virgins), ruining a 'well-earned' virginity would be to 'defile' your holy vocation of virginity, indeed. – Sola Gratia Aug 17 '17 at 14:21
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Revelation is a book filled with symbols. One symbol that is used throughout the Bible is that a woman stands for religion. So, in the case of Rev. 14:4, the metaphor is the virgin who has not mixed their pure religion with other religions.

Jer. 46:11 Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.

Amo. 5:2 The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up.

2 Cor. 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Rev. 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

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It is a spiritual purity for all men and women in Christ. They remained faithful to Christ, and were not fornicators with other gods like the pagan idolators were. The 144,000 was the symbol of those converted Jews of the first generation, the first fruits to Christ of the twelve tribes of Israel x the twelve apostles of Christ who were martyred under the persecution.

2 Cor. 11:2,

"For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (KJV)

Adam Clarke's commentary on vs. 4,

"These are they which were not defiled with women - They are pure from idolatry, and are presented as unspotted virgins to their Lord and Savior Christ. See 2 Corinthians 11:2. There may be an allusion here to the Israelites committing idolatry, through the means of their criminal connection with the Midianitish women. See Numbers 25:1-4; Numbers 31:16." Source: here

Excerpt from Eldicott's Commentary on vs. 4-5:

"(4, 5) These are they . . .—The characteristics of the servants of the Lamb are given in this verse and the following. The first is purity: they are virgins. The expression can hardly be limited to the unmarried, as the 144,000 represent the wide society of the choice ones of God. They are those whose hearts have been made as the hearts of little children (Matthew 18:1-4), who have that purity of heart which Christ declared to be blessed, and which St. James declared to be the first mark of heavenly wisdom (Matthew 5:8, and James 3:17). " Source: here

The sense is that they were pure, bonded in marriage to Christ, and not committing adultery / fornication with idolatry, nor worshiping idols.

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There are people who will say the passage should be taken symbolically and others who will look to the Torah for definition. But keeping in mind that Revelation was meant to be read by peasants and understood by the uneducated, the passage should be taken quite literally. If the passage says they are virgins, then they are virgins. If it says they've never been defiled by women, it means they've never had intercourse with a woman. If it says they are first fruits who were redeemed from among 12 tribes of Israel (as written in Revelation 7:1-8), then it's not just the Jews. And from the context of the following verses (Revelation 7:9-12), these 144'000 are a special group set apart from the rest of the saints who come from every tribe and nation on earth who are coming out of the Great Tribulation (whether they fell as martyrs or were taken up after surviving the Great Tribulation, it does not give a specific distinction. But other New Testament passages alludes to it being a mixture of both in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

I hope I've given you a better knowledge of the details and hopefully the Holy Spirit can lead to you to understand the answer.

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  • @MinRickyMooreII Greetings. I'm having trouble with the idea that this passage could ever be taken literally. It seems to me "144,000" is merely a "perfect number" (12^2 * 10^3) of the chosen people of God. Just as described above, they are those who have not been defiled by idolatry, etc. While the ancient Jews may have been peasants, most were raised to understand Scripture quite well. They attended synagogues where they were taught. I agree with you that these were not all Jews since the number is representative of perfection -- all the faithful everywhere, both men and women. – Xeno 2 days ago
  • So married people are excluded ? – Nigel J 2 days ago
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