Q. In Revelation 14:1, it appears Jesus is on Mt. Zion with the 144,000. Wouldn’t this place this event at the Second Coming? If not, then exactly what appearing is this?
A. If you take all of Rev. 14:1-5 as a single thought you’ll conclude that it takes place in Heaven.
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
The only other New Testament appearance of the phrase Mount Zion is in Hebrews 12:22 where it equates Mount Zion with the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.
By the way, this is one of several clues that the 144,000 of Rev. 7 (I’ll call them group 1) and the 144,000 of Rev. 14 (I’ll call them group 2) are not the same. First, group 1 is on Earth, while group 2 is in Heaven.
Group 1 will be chosen from among the 12 tribes of Israel, while group 2 has been redeemed from the Earth, purchased from among men, and offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb.
Group 1 has the seal of God on their foreheads, but group 2 has both the name of God and the name of Jesus on their foreheads. The only other place this is mentioned is in reference to the Church in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:12).
Group 1 contains people in their natural state, but group 2 is characterized as pure virgins, a term only used of the Bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2), and is standing with Jesus in the New Jerusalem, where only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life can enter (Rev. 21:27).
That means group 1 consists of a specific number, 12,000 from each of 12 tribes, while in the case of group 2, 144,000 is a symbolic number, a multiple of 12, the number of governmental perfection. From this, it appears that group 2 represents the raptured Church in Heaven with Jesus well before the 2nd Coming.