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The seventh chapter of The Revelation (about the army of 144,000 people) has, like so much of The Revelation, been ignored by most Christians on the basis that it could be misinterpreted by fanatics to make them think they are part of the army and others are not. How silly!

At the very least, we need to take more seriously the lessons which are implied in the overall passage, since they probably will relate to us at some time in the future. We shouldn't just tear that chapter out of the Bible because it may be misunderstood.

What lessons am I talking about?

For starters, I'm talking about the fact that these 144,000 people are "virgins" "which were not defiled with women". In the past I have offered a liberal, highly spiritualised interpretation of this passage. I have done much the same with other passages in the New Testament about celibacy, suggesting that people could be married without it affecting their ability to work for God, so long as they didn't have children. I personally still believe both of these more spiritualised teachings, and I will elaborate on them a bit more later in this study.

But our experience has been that couples have used those teachings to avoid other parts of the Bible that are much clearer about our need to forsake our spouses and children for God. And, having taken that first step, to get married, most of them have later fallen away from literal obedience to just about anything else that Jesus taught.

I do not see any point in forbidding marriage (as the Catholics do for their leaders), since the Bible teaches that such a doctrine is wrong. But I think we need to do like the Bible does, and be fairly certain about telling people where marriage is likely to lead them. Chances are that, if any of you singles get married, we are going to lose a couple more radical 100% sold-out red-hot warriors for Christ. It doesn't have to be that way, but, based on past experience, it probably will be.

So I am now starting to believe that the army of 144,000 may in fact be literally virgins, who have kept themselves from women. I would still question the "virginity" thing a bit as a literal condition that excludes for life anyone who has ever had sex. I think that it probably means something more along the lines of "holy" people who have been set aside for the Master's use, and who stubbornly refuse to let sex distract them from God's will. It may even be that a married person could become part of that army... but the conditions would still be pretty strict.

Paul says to the Corinthians, "The time remains that those who have wives should be as though they had none." In other words, there may be an option for those of us who are married to still make it into the army, but the only way we could do it would be by very seriously and perhaps very literally forsaking our wives. The Catholic Church has something along those lines, where a married man can become a priest by literally leaving his wife. The system in general is shocked by it, but the Catholics still do it. And I think that is just a small sample of what God is wanting us to do. What Paul said is echoed by Jesus when he says that no man can come after him unless he is willing to "hate" his wife.

I have, for too long, been afraid of people calling us a cult that breaks up marriages. So I have bent over backwards to accommodate rebellious wives. Some members have clenched their fists every time I even hinted at husbands forsaking their wives for God. I thank God that we are finally free of that rebellious spirit, and I pray that we will never tolerate it again.

Over the years I have had many disagreements with my wife, but the end of the story is that I have not let her stop me from following God, and she is now behind me more than she has ever been in her life. We put God first, and God has rewarded us.

I like this fresh new, radical approach that we have taken, that does not require us to justify ourselves to any of our friends, ex-members, relatives, or other system "authorities". All of these people unanimously "despise authority"... ours, God's, or anyone's except their own. They are not convinced, as we are, that we have found the answer in the teachings of Jesus. They do not regard his teachings as the pearl of great price for which they would sell all that they own. Some of our ex-members and many of our friends and relatives do not even regard themselves as Christians... not because Christ has let them down, but because they have let him down.

I'm not saying that we don't try to be friendly with them, but that we remember: fence-sitters are never neutral, although they always pretend they are. In fact, they are usually the most dangerous of "friends". All of these people are governed by a social conscience, i.e. a need to be accepted in the eyes of others. Even their occasional niceties are carefully calculated to prove something to us, to each other, and/or to the system.

So what I am suggesting now is that we must at least be willing to cut our ties with all of these vestiges of respectability that each of our system and family friendships represents, and to spiritually disappear, if need be, into the great unknown in the way of all so-called "cults". It is the willingness of any group to cut all ties with their families and with the system that gets them labelled a cult in the first place; but it is this same willingness that makes them so effective. It may be time for us to discover the same effectiveness.

If the virgin army only includes those who have kept themselves from women (i.e. bachelors to the rapture) then all of these guys who are being led around by their wives are out before they even start. It may even mean that the remaining married couples in our community are, at best, only going to be part of some kind of an army auxiliary, shouting encouragement to the rest of you guys from the sidelines. I expect that if the single guys are cut down to just literal virgins (in the modern understanding of the word), then we may be very close to finding ourselves with no disciples at all.

Nevertheless, if that is the standard, then that is what we must preach, and toward which we should aspire. It is only the grace of God that may allow some of us to be part of the virgin army; but I believe that his grace will only be made available to those of us who are prepared to acknowledge what the standards at least should be. And those standards include forsaking wives and children for Christ.

It's like what we have experienced with remarried divorcees. We have, at times, said that we would accept couples that had been remarried for many years, as long as they would teach that in principle, what they did was wrong, i.e. that they should not have remarried after being divorced. But no, they wanted to make the standard fit their conduct rather than make their conduct (or at least the conduct of those whom they might influence) come closer to the standard; and so they have, all of them, flatly refused to teach such a principle.

We must not let ourselves do this with regard to the virgin army. If forsaking wives and children is the standard, then so be it.

If we understand that this concept of being "virgins" and being "separate from women" is part of a direction on a continuum, and something that spiritually reflects every area of our life, then we should be teaching it and doing all that we can to start practising it now. Whether or not we ever qualify for membership in the army ourselves, we "sons of God" need to be totally sold out to God the Father, so that no beguiling spirit (or spirit of Eve) can come between us and him. We that are married should be as though we were not in this regard.

I think we can only teach such a doctrine by recognising the legitimacy of masturbation. That's a vital key that has been left out by everyone I know of who has taught celibacy. Because it has been left out, sexual hypocrisy and perversion has resulted. (Note: Even the anti-masturbation teaching is a product of the Jezebel influence in the churches, where mothers dictated what was right and wrong for their sons, rather than honest fathers.)

By accepting masturbation, I can even accept being separated from my wife for Christ. Being a virgin does not mean that I am asexual. But by practising masturbation, I do not have to let my sexual needs dictate my lifestyle. My sexual needs are like my other biological needs... i.e. just biological. I can't stop going to the toilet for God, but I can agree not to do so in public (for example) without feeling that it is an impossible ethic to follow. And the same is true of sex. I can't stop ejaculation, but I can agree that I will not engage in illegitimate sex, and I can agree that it will not compromise my role as spiritual leader in my family.

So what about singles who may want to marry? We cannot forbid any of them to marry, but I can pretty well promise them that if they do, they will end up feeling more comfortable working with ex-members than they will be working with us. And that is because we intend to grow quite literally toward the vision of being part of the virgin army, while all of the others are so afraid of appearing to be cultish that their hands are tied spiritually. They are being controlled by the spirit of Jezebel, usually in the form of their own wives. We have watched backslidden wives slowly strangle their husbands spiritually, as they themselves grew more and more toward becoming spiritual nonentities.

I might add that the same situation exists throughout all the churches, where there is hardly a leader anywhere who has control over his own family. The sin isn't that they are married, but that in the important spiritual decisions that these husbands must make, they are "defiled by women" (i.e. by their emotional dependence on their wives). Because they feel that they cannot live without their wives, they become wimps for God. Under such conditions, they cannot do anything but teach that rebellious wives must be tolerated by the rest of the community.

I don't hate women. God knows, I love my wife dearly. But the devil is always going to take the one you love most and use that person to pull you away from God. We just cannot tolerate that any more.

If any of our men get married and problems arise, we are going to insist that they bring their wives into line. You married men are going to be faced with the possibility that your wives will refuse to have sex with you or leave you if you try to take a hard line with them, and that is when you will find out both what your wives are made of and what you are made of.

While you are operating under some perverted doctrine of grace, where you make no demands on your wives, you will never know what they are capable of spiritually. But when you lay down the law of God, they are either going to submit and become true followers of Christ, or they are going to rebel and show themselves to be agents of the devil.

Certainly if any men in our community are considering marriage, it would be a lot easier to lay the law down now, when rebellion from the potential wife will leave you open to marry someone else some day, or better still, to be part of the virgin army.

Just ruling marriage out as a recommended option does not rule it out as a possibility. We will go ahead and perform marriage ceremonies for any consenting adults who have not been married before. But I am saying, as St. Paul said, that people who get married are going to be faced with incredible temptations that will very likely make them pretty much ineffectual for God.

It may be that, in some hypothetical situation, God himself could actually encourage a person to get married. But if that is true, then it is up to God to make it clear. The instructions we have from scripture are that it's better to stay single, and we should discourage marriage as a general principle.

If you can't handle being single, then go ahead, but, as Paul said, there are going to be problems (and one of them is that your wife is probably going to start nagging you for kids).

In the meantime, let's start encouraging our little army of bachelors not to go looking for potential wives, but to go looking for more bachelors (and women, too, who are committed to staying single for God) to add to the army. For you are the ones who are going to make our little Virgin Army cult most effective!

God bless you!

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