Before we answer that, let’s read verse 1, “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name WRITTEN ON THEIR FOREHEADS” (NKJV).  Now we’ll compare this will Revelation 7:2-4, “Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the SEAL of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have SEALED THE SERVANTS OF GOD ON THEIR FOREHEADS.’ And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were SEALED.” Most students of Scripture agree that these two companies of 144,000 are one and the same. The only difference to be made is in chapter 7 they are sealed BEFORE the 7-year Tribulation Period begins and in chapter 14 they are standing on Mount Zion with their Savior at the END of the Tribulation. They are a faithful Jewish Remnant who have been preserved safely through a time of catastrophic judgments and persecutions and will enter, with their Savior (the “Lamb”), into the Millennial Kingdom on earth. This is borne out in the verse you asked about: “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (14:4).

As to your question, there are two popular views that we will explore; one is the LITERAL VIEW and the other is the SYMBOLIC VIEW. Both views have merits that we should prayerfully consider.

1) The 144,000 are LITERALLY MEN (males) who are LITERALLY VIRGINS. In support of this view it is said that we are to take Scripture LITERALLY unless the context forces us to take it SYMBOLICALLY. Those who espouse this view say there is no reason not to take this at face value, which means God will literally take 144,000 men (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) and give them a “seal of protection” to preserve them from being killed. They, in turn, will be absolutely faithful to their Savior by maintaining a life of purity. They will be virgins, meaning they won’t defile themselves with women (in a time when sexual promiscuity will be rampant) by committing fornication. Of course this also means they won’t marry. Why won’t they marry? It’s not because marriage is defiling, for we read in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” They won’t marry because the Tribulation Period will be so stressful and dangerous that getting married would present an unnecessary trial for both the husband and wife. The Apostle Paul gave that as a reason in his day when encouraging some to remain single: “Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. I suppose therefore that this is good BECAUSE OF THE PRESENT DISTRESS—THAT IT IS GOOD FOR A MAN TO REMAIN AS HE IS.”

2) The 144,000 SYMBOLIZE a company of faithful believers who maintain SPIRITUAL PURITY by not being defiled by love for the world and its moral filth, or by compromising the truth of God by worshipping the Beast and the Antichrist when they are demanding worship and blind allegiance. In defense of this view they cite various Old Testament scriptures which speak of Israel as a “virgin daughter” who should have remained “undefiled” in the midst of idolatry and worldly corruption, yet in their case they failed to maintain spiritual purity. Lamentations 2:13 speaks to this, “How shall I console you? To what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I compare with you, that I may comfort you, O VIRGIN DAUGHTER of Zion? For your ruin is spread wide as the sea; who can heal you?” I would encourage you to also read 2nd Kings 19-21 and Jeremiah 18:13; 31:4, 21. The Apostle Paul also used the word “virgin” to symbolize spiritual purity when writing to the church at Corinth: “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a CHASTE VIRGIN to Christ” (2nd Corinthians 11:2). Paul realized that the church will be the “Bride of Christ” and it was his desire that they remain pure by not being “spiritually defiled” by the corruptions of this world and the false teachings of Satan’s emissaries. We see this in verse 3, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

Which view is correct? I don’t know. If view #1 is correct then MEN ONLY are in view and their being VIRGINS means they will not commit fornication or marry. Yet we can assume they will also remain “spiritually pure” for they are said to “follow the Lamb wherever He goes,” which implies they faithfully follow and obey His teachings. If view #2 is correct, then it may include MEN AND WOMEN who remain “spiritually undefiled” in a time of unbelievable moral filth and corruption.  (348.0)  (DO)