Q: I've been told that Revelation 14: 1-5 is depicting a heavenly scene but am having difficulty seeing the passage in that way. Can you clarify this passage for me?
A: To answer your question, I do not think Revelation 14:1-5 is describing a heavenly scene, but rather is describing the millennial Mount Zion. I take it to be a millennial scene and it pictures the 144,000 Jews of chapter seven with the Messiah within the Messianic Kingdom. As to why there is a millennial scene at this junction in the Book of Revelation, the answer lies in its connection with the previous two chapters where Satan organized his attempt to destroy the Jews. The first verse of chapter fourteen opens up with the 144,000 Jews standing on Mount Zion with a protective seal on their foreheads prominently displayed. The sealing was done back in chapter seven and the sealing was done for two purposes: protection and service. These were sealed for service since they proclaimed the gospel in protection and, therefore, will be among those who will actually survive the Tribulation and will not be among those who are killed. So their standing on the millennial Mount Zion with the protective seal on their foreheads displayed shows that Satan's attempt at total Jewish destruction will fail. Furthermore, he refers to them as first fruits, a term that always indicates the first of much more to come later. The very fact that 144,000 Jews are merely the first fruits shows that they are the first fruits of many more Jewish believers who will survive the Tribulation and come to saving faith.
Q: Revelation seven does not include the Tribe of Dan as part of the 144,000, yet verse four says that the 144,000 is comprised of all the tribes of Israel. Also, the Tribes of Joseph and Manasseh are mentioned, but I thought that Joseph was Ephraim and Manasseh. Why is the Tribe of Levi included here and not elsewhere?
A: Regarding Revelation seven, just as with the rest of the Bible, the word “all” must always be interpreted according to its context. Sometimes, the word means “universal,” but sometimes it is more limited according to the context. In terms of Revelation seven, the word “all” is limited by the context — being the 12 tribes he actually lists; and based upon the listing, the Tribe of Dan is excluded. This is not unusual, and, in fact, it would not be true to say that the Tribe of Levi was normally excluded elsewhere. If you read the 12 tribal blessings of Moses in Deuteronomy 33, you will see that he leaves out Simeon but includes Levi.
The point is: If you make a list of the 12 tribal names, you'll actually end up with 13 names because the firstborn right, ended up being the two Tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. In order to retain the symmetry of 12, one tribe would need to be dropped in the naming. Moses chose to drop Simeon, and John chose to drop Dan. In this way, the symmetry of 12 is retained. Normally, of course, only the two names of Ephraim and Manasseh are used. But sometimes the name Joseph is used for Manasseh, and sometimes the name Joseph is used for Ephraim. Joseph is specifically identified with Ephraim in Ezekiel 37:15-23, and so John also uses Joseph's name in place of Ephraim (Revelation 7). It is quite in keeping with Old Testament principles.