The 144 Thousand Soldier/Priests (Psalm 110)
Regarded as the Crown Jewel of the book of Psalms, this short but powerful revelation by King David provides the believer with marvelous insight concerning David's Lord, the Messiah, the King of kings, our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. While it is one of the most quoted Psalms in the New Testament, the important fact here is the One Who quoted its truth as He dealt with the Pharisees concerning His identity as the Messiah, David's Lord and the Son of Jehovah God.
Yes, the Lord Jesus referred to this Psalm a number of times during His earthly ministry (Matthew 22:44, 26:64; Mark 12:64, 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42, 22:69), and it is also utilized over a dozen other times in the New Testament demonstrating its vital importance in the overall scheme of God's unfolding revelation.
However, our focus in this brief look at Psalm 110 is prophetic, for the majority of the subject matter covered in the Psalm has yet to take place in the course of history, and, this Messianic Jewel of the Psalms, revealing truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, also provides the believer with vital truth in understanding the end of the age as indicated in the Revelation of Jesus Christ in concert with this Psalm.
The opening verse of the book of Revelation: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass" designates a group of people to whom the Lord Jesus Christ would 'show' His vital end of the age truths contained in the Apocalypse, and that group of people are called "His servants".
His servants include select men and women who were and are willing to 'spend and be spent' for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. This word translated servant is the Greek word 'doulo'' meaning bondservant or slave, indicating one who is totally given over to the will of their master. It is found in the New Testament over 120 times with better than half of those occurrences in the Gospels being spoken by the Lord Jesus.
Although there are a number of different Greek words translated servant in the KJV, with various meanings such as attendant, minister, household worker, hired employee and under rower, the Greek word' 'doulos' is the one that refers to the ultimate servant with respect to the total giving of oneself to the service of their master. This is the word chosen by the Apostle Paul to describe his own position in relationship to his Lord a number of times (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1).
The epistles reveal the 'doulos' or 'servants of the Lord Jesus Christ' also include Timothy, Epaphras, Peter, James, John, and Jude. And, in the book of the Revelation the same word is also used to describe Moses and the prophets underlining its usage to describe these premier Old Covenant servants who also gave themselves totally to the Master.
Therefore, those 'servants of our God' or bond-slaves of Jesus Christ who are described within the Revelation must be considered to be of this same caliber, and they are first seen in 7:3, 4: "Hurt not the earth till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel."
They are also classified as 'doulos' or 'bond-servants' along with those Apostles and other notable New Testament men used mightily of the Lord during the time of the early church. This definitive word was chosen by the Holy Spirit to describe this select group of men in order to indicate their advanced spiritual condition and relationship to God at the time they are sealed, for they are called 'the servants of our God' by the angels before they are sealed.
This unique group of God's servants are key end times saints and some of the most thoroughly described in the Word of God for they are seen or referred to numerous times in the book of the Revelation: 7:1-8, 9:4, 12:17, 14:1-5, 17:14, 19:19. They are also described and addressed here in Psalm 110 which shows their dual end of the age duties as physical and spiritual warriors for the King of kings.
The coronation of the King of kings is indicated in the opening verse of Psalm 110: "The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool" showing Jehovah God making it His certain intent to give the Lord Jesus Christ eventual dominion over the entire earth.
This first verse also pinpoints the timing of the Psalm as the Lord Jesus Christ has just ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11) and is invited by the Father to sit at His right hand. He sat at the Father's right hand and was exalted (Acts 2:33) and subsequently sent the Holy Spirit to His people (Acts 2:1-4) as promised (Luke 24:49; John 14:16, 17, 26, 15:26, 16:7, 13, 14; Acts 1:4).
"The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion, rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies" (v.2). The 'rod of Thy strength' may refer to the Church, so Matthew Henry, or more likely the Holy Spirit for He was and is now the Person Who empowers and strengthens believers and thereby glorifies and exalts the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church and the Holy Spirit were both sent 'out of Zion' which is the city of Jerusalem and fit the requirements of the passage, but, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that God's work and will is accomplished. This is how The Lord Jesus has ruled and continues to rule in the midst of His enemies, for truly by His Holy Spirit Jesus is Lord!
Nevertheless, verse two represents the period, from the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) until "the day of Thy power" (v.3) when the Lord returns in great power and glory. This time is called the Church Age or the dispensation of Grace indicating the manner in which God is presently dealing with men.
God is now calling out a people for His name in the process of bringing into subjection by His Spirit those who are the enemies of His Son: "Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head, over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all." (Ephesians 2:20-23)
The Lord Jesus Christ being at the right hand of the Father does most certainly rule by the power of His Spirit for these verses indicate His present position and tell that He also will have all things in subjection in the world to come. He is now Head of the Church, Lord of lords and King of kings.
"Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, Thou hast the dew of Thy youth [young men]" (Psalm 110:3). The next period of time is "the day of Thy power" known as the Day of the Lord, when Christ returns "in power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).
During the Day of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ will have 'with Him' (Revelation 14:1, 17:14) a group of followers (Revelation 14:4) known as the 144 Thousand. Psalm 110:3 describes them, providing some distinct qualities and duties of this group of God's servants who "shall be willing in the day of Thy [Lord Jesus Christ] power".
The word 'people' (v.3) appears in the Old Testament over 1800 times and is variously translated. On occasion, as in I Samuel 11 where it is found six times, it has the emphasis of 'troops' specifically in (v.11) when "Saul put the people [troops] in three companies" which is recorded by the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament vol.2, p.676. There are also a number of passages where the word [people] means "troops".
In keeping with the dominating militant theme of the Psalm the NIV gives this interpretation: "Your troops shall be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth." The NASV translates: "Thy people will volunteer freely in the day of Thy power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Thy youth are to Thee as the dew."
The willing obedience of the 144 Thousand is seen in Revelation 14:4 where they "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" having already surrendered themselves to His Lordship long before when they decided to follow Jesus and give themselves as bond-servants of the King! (Revelation 7:3)
Their personal holiness before God "in the beauties of holiness" also is confirmed in Revelation 14:4,5 "These are they which were not defiled with women...And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God". Their physical purity and spiritual holiness affords them the ability to continually 'follow the Lamb' giving them unbroken access to the throne of God where they fulfill their ministry priority as priests unto God.
The last phrase of Psalm 110:3: "Thou hast the dew of Thy youth" provides additional information concerning the 144 Thousand. The word 'dew' indicates their great number and as the dew provides refreshment and blessing to the earth, they, too, will give these same benefits to those to whom they minister.
"And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarries not for man, nor waits for the sons of men."(Micah 5:7) As priests unto God they will be a blessing direct from God not dependent on men.
This word 'youth' of Psalm 110:3 is only found in the Old Testament three times with the other two occurrences in Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10: "‘Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from they heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity."
The word 'youth' in Psalm 110:3 indicates a designated group of young men, who will be active during the end of the age, willing to follow the Lord which suitably describes the144 Thousand. This approximates their age and agrees with the tenor of Revelation 14:4 where their virginity is recorded requiring a decision which must be made by these young men early in manhood.
The age of twenty was specified in the book of Numbers when a census was taken of those men who were able to go to war: "Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names every male by their polls: From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel". (Numbers 1:2, 3)
This may well be the age that determines the lower limit for these young soldiers of Christ, for they will in fact see combat as war against the saints occurs during the end of the age as indicated in Scripture. (Daniel 7:21; Revelation 12:17, 13:7, 17:14, 19:19)
There will also be two major assaults against Israel prior to Armageddon with the first beginning at the mid-point of the 70th Week of Daniel which focuses on the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 38:8-16; Daniel 12:1; Micah 5:4-14; Matthew 24:15-21). The second battle will take place in the Valley of Jehosophat (Joel 3:1-8; Zechariah 14:1,2) with these men being part of 'the remnant of Jacob' when "the Assyrian [Antichrist] shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces". (Micah 5:5-8).
The overriding tone of this Psalm is one of dominion, troops, warfare and human carnage which is brought on by Jehovah's judgment of earth through the outpouring of the eschatological Day of the Lord 'day of His wrath' (Psalm 110:5) which couples accurately with the warfare and judgment thoroughly detailed in the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 8,9,15-19).
W. Graham Scroggie, D.D. speaks on (Psalm 110:3) in his commentary on the Psalms, p.87: "The beauties of holiness…" the reference is to holy attire, holy garments, priestly vestments. The soldiers are priests, the consecrated are warriors . These two sides of Christian calling and character are vitally related. Because we are 'priests unto God' we are to 'put on the whole armour of God' (Rev.1:6; Eph. 6:11)…"Thou hast the dew of thy youth" Maclaren translates this as"‘from the womb of the dawn (comes) to Thee the dew of Thy youth (s)"; and he says, "the principal point of comparison of the army with the dew is probably its multitude."
W. Graham Scroggie, William Kay, Alexander McLaren, and Matthew Henry all see these 'people' here in Psalm 110 to be soldiers of the Lord's army with most of these men also giving them the duty of priests. Matthew Henry also indicates they are the 144 Thousand as he refers to their following "the Lamb whithersoever He goes" (Revelation 14:4)
So, this army of the King of kings will be completely submissive to the will of God during the day of the Lord's army. These young soldiers of Christ will be involved in the intense spiritual and physical warfare at the end of the age as priests unto God and they will be arrayed in holiness doing the Lord's service "‘before the throne of God". (Revelation14:1,4)
These priests unto God are involved in holy warfare when the battle is at its most heightened level, when Satan "knows that he has but a short time" (Revelation 12:12). Scroggie, in his commentary on the Psalms, adds ""Messiah's soldiers are declared to be priests (Psalm 110:3) before His own priesthood is announced." p.88
This impeccable group of young men, chosen from every tribe of Israel, will play a key part in the unfolding of the end of the age as they are eventually sealed (Revelation 7:1-8) and given protection (Revelation 9:4) from the horrendous Day of the Lord judgment/wrath of God which will fall upon the earth and its inhabitants.
In (Psalm 110:4) David continues to address the Lord Jesus Christ telling Him of His eternal priesthood which is pronounced by Jehovah: "The LORD hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek". The LORD Jehovah, told Jesus of His future actions in (v.2,3) before He declared the Lord Jesus Christ's present High Priestly office in (v.4), remembering that the Psalm in (v.2-4) is addressing the Lord Jesus when He ascended to heaven.
Jehovah in (v.4) takes an oath and tells of Jesus' present ministry to the Father and the saints as "He ever lives to make intercession" for those who come unto God by Him. (Hebrews 7:25) The Consecration of our Great High Priest is accomplished in this the key verse of Psalm 110 being thoroughly explained in the book of Hebrews 5-9.
However, our focus here is on the 144 Thousand and in (v.5-7) they are directly addressed: "The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath." (v.5) Here, the people [troops] 144 Thousand (v.3) are given the promise of the Lord's presence 'at thy right hand' during the time when He pours out His wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth during the Day of the Lord.
This agrees with Revelation 6:16, 17: "From the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come; and who is able to stand?" Although it is usually called the wrath of God, in the first reference to wrath in the book of the Revelation it is designated "the wrath of the Lamb".
Notice, the Lord [Adonai] (v.5) continues to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, as in (v.1). This promise of the Lord's presence indicated by His 'right hand' is found in the Psalms twenty one times and refers to the power, authority and blessing of the Lord to the saint in nineteen of these occurrences, and so here, the promise of the blessed presence of the Lord Jesus Christ when "this Man will be the peace" (Micah 5:5) for those who will be with Him during the end of the age and "the day of His wrath".
Psalm 110:6 vividly portrays the divine Judge's wrath as it is poured out upon earth: "He shall judge among the heathen, He shall fill the places with the dead bodies, He shall wound the heads [kings of the earth] over many countries." His Day of the Lord judgment includes the death of over one third of the world population (Revelation 9:15, 16:3).
The closing verse indicates His actions and attitude of complete victory after the Day of the Lord's wrath is ended: "He shall drink from the brook in the way, therefore shall He lift up the head." The Lord is physically refreshed and assumes the well deserved appearance and expression of His triumphant victory after His work of judgment is over, after the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21) has ended.
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