Today I want to share with you a new article by Baruch. I know you will find it very helpful in your last days studies!
The 144,000 of the Book of Revelation
There is much interest in regard to the 144,000 men mentioned in the book of Revelation chapters seven and fourteen. This interest has generated many questions and the responses to many to these questions have produced some theologically problematic answers. In this article, the 144,000 will be examined and several conclusions will be reached concerning them.
It is important to note that at the end of chapter six of the book of Revelation, the wrath of the Lamb (Yeshua) is announced. However, in chapter seven, as the wrath of the Lamb is about to begin, one angel commands the four other angels who were going to harm the earth, not to do anything until the servants of G-d have been sealed upon their foreheads. The first thing which is mentioned is the number of those who were sealed, 144,000. Obviously this number is derived from 12,000 men which were sealed from each of the twelve tribes. Please note that the number twelve is emphasized, not only in this passage, but also when John, the author of the book of Revelation, writes about the New Jerusalem at the end of this book.
When looking at the use of the number twelve throughout the Scriptures, one finds that this number relates to the people of G-d. It is most interesting that when the New Jerusalem is described, it is said to have twelve gates and to these gates were twelve angels, whose names were the twelve tribes of Israel. The New Jerusalem also had twelve foundations and upon them were written the names of the twelve Apostles. When the New Jerusalem was measured, there was also an emphasis upon the numbers 12, 24, 144 and 144,000. In other words, the number twelve relates to the Kingdom of G-d, as well as certain multiples of this number: 24, 144 and 144,000. This perspective has caused some to understand the 144,000 sealed in Revelation chapters seven and fourteen to convey the people of the Kingdom G-d.
This means that one should not necessarily view this number as a literal 144,000 individuals. This normally goes against how I interpret the Scriptures, as I prefer to do so in a very literal manner. However in this case, I tend to agree and understand this reference of 144,000 in chapter seven as relating to Israel in a general manner. This does not mean that all the Jewish people who are alive at the end times are in fact Kingdom people; rather the sealing of them is for protection from the wrath of G-d and to demonstrate His covenantal faithfulness to them. This is most similar to how the Hebrews were spared much of the damage of the plagues of Egypt while they were in Goshen. This protection in Goshen did not ensure them taking part in the Exodus, but it was a powerful testimony of the One True G-d and His faithfulness, and this testimony provided strong revelation for them to keep the Passover.
When examining chapter seven, all that one can derive from this passage is G-d had the 144,000 of the twelve tribes of Israel sealed from His coming wrath. No other conclusions can be discerned from this section. The issue of why the Tribe of Dan is not mentioned, but the Tribe of Manasseh is, has significance; however, it is not pertinent to the primary matter of this article. It is when chapter 14 is carefully studied that the issue of the 144,000 becomes much clearer.
In chapter fourteen, there is immediately a reference to the Lamb (Messiah). The Lamb is not described as being ready to pour out His wrath, as in chapter seven; rather He is standing on Mount Zion and the 144,000 are with Him. When one examines verse two, there are some clear references to heaven.
“And I heard a sound out of heaven, as a sound of many waters, and as a sound of great thunder, and the sound which I heard as harpists harping with their harps.” Revelation 14:2
The 144,000 are said to be before the throne of G-d. Also mentioned are the four living creatures, and the elders, all of whom are located in heaven (see verse three). This fact provides significant information to assist one in interpreting this section. When one reviews some of the traditional evangelical views of the 144,000, frequently many claims are asserted which cannot be supported by the Bible. It is common to proclaim that these 144,000 will be Jewish evangelists who will bring about a great world wide revival. The first problem with such a position is that there is absolutely no Scriptural evidence that these 144,000 are in fact evangelists. I find no verse that states that they have any ministry with the word of G-d at all. Rather, in chapter fourteen, it is written that it will actually be an angel who shares the Gospel with the world.
“And I saw another angel in the midst of the heavens having the everlasting (eternal) Gospel to evangelize to the ones dwelling upon the earth; and to every nation and tribe and language and people.” Revelation 14:6
Another error which is made is the false assumption that it is the 144,000 who are the cause of the “Tribulation Saints” coming to faith. This assertion is the explanation for why the innumerable group mentioned in Revelation 7:9-10 came to faith. However, careful examination of the passage makes no such conclusion. This is only an inference based on the fact that immediately after the 144,000 are sealed, the next verses mention this innumerable group which are in heaven. It would be more reasonable and fitting for one to assert that it was due to the evangelizing angel, mentioned in Revelation 14:6, that this great multitude came to faith. Such an interpretation is supported by the fact that both in Revelation 7:9 and 14:6 the exact language is used (nation, tribe, language and people) in regard to the great multitude and to who the angel evangelized.
There are other significant contradictions with the standard evangelical position concerning the 144,000. If the 144,000 are in fact Jewish evangelists sent out after the Rapture to evangelize the world during the Tribulation period, what then is the role of the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation chapter eleven? Some have asserted that the two witnesses are solely for Israel (Jewish individuals) and the 144,000 are for every other nation, tribe, language and people. Setting aside the fact that there is not one scripture that can be offered which directly states that the 144,000 are evangelists, there is another serious problems for those who teach that the 144,000 are for the nations, tribes, languages and people. When studying the tribulation period during the trumpets and bowls judgments, there is not any Scriptural evidence whatsoever to support some great spiritual revival taking place during the tribulation period at all, and of course no such spiritual awaking being led by the 144,000. In fact, the opposite is taught in the word of G-d.
“And the rest of the men (mankind) which were not killed in these plagues, did not repent from the works of their hands; in order that they should not worship demons and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, wood, which are not able to see nor hear, nor walk. And they did not repent from their murders, nor from their drugs, nor from their sexual immorality, nor from their thefts.” Revelation 9:20-21
“…and they blasphemed the Name of G-d, the One having authority over these plagues, and they did not repent to give to Him glory.” Revelation 16:9
“And they blasphemed the G-d of heaven from their pains and from their sores, and did not repent from their works.” Revelation 16:11
Another passage of Scripture which is offered to support the notion that the 144,000 are Jewish evangelists is taken from the prophecy of Joel, where in the last days G-d will pour out His Spirit and your sons and your daughters and they will prophesy (See Joel 3:1-5 in Hebrew and in English 2:28-32). The problem with using this passage in regard to their view of 144,000 is that women are also mentioned and the 144,000 are clearly men. Secondly, it is never alluded that these who Joel speaks of are evangelizing; rather they are prophesying and receiving dreams and visions. Perhaps because towards the end of this section one reads that “…all who call upon the Name of the L-rd will escape”, a case could be made for these sharing the Gospel, but in no way is there any Scriptural evidence that one should understand this prophecy from Joel as relating to the 144,000.
The 144,000, according to chapter fourteen, are before the throne of G-d with the Four Creatures and the Elders, i.e. in heaven, and they are singing a new song which no one could learn except these 144,000 who have been redeemed from the earth. What is the meaning of the statement that “they have been redeemed (literally “bought”) from the earth”? This is to inform the readers that the 144,000 are human beings and not angelic in nature; and as human beings they had to be redeemed in order to be in the presence of G-d in heaven.
When studying the tribulation period (Daniel’s 70th week), the first half of this week (three and a half years or forty-two months) one learns that idolatry will be most common. In fact, it will be the Empire of the antichrist which will demand all people to make an image in order to honor the beast (Empire) and they must also bow down to the image or they will be put to death (See Revelation 13:14-15). Concerning the 144,000, the reader is told,
“These are the ones, with women have not been defiled; for they are virgins.”
This verse is the basis for the view that the 144,000 are men and they are virgins, i.e. celibate. Although a literal reading would support such a view, there are some reasons why this verse may have a more symbolic meaning. As was just stated, the first half of the final seven years will be a time of idolatry. When studying Old Testament prophecy, one finds that adultery is frequently used to refer to idolatry. Those who assert that the 144,000 are celibate Jewish evangelists rely on a false understanding that celibacy is more holy than a Biblically based marriage. Being married in a G-d honoring covenantal marriage is not less holy than virginity. A husband being with his wife does not defile or pollute him. The intent of Revelation 14:4 is to inform the reader that the 144,000 did not defile themselves by making the image to the beast or taking the mark of the beast. The next verse speaks of the 144,000 as having no deceit or falsehood in their mouths and they are blameless before the throne of G-d.
It is clear that beginning from Revelation 14:7 John speaks about the wrath of G-d. There is a proclamation that Babylon, a reference to the Evil Empire during the Tribulation, has fallen and everyone who worshipped the Beast and its image will receive the wrath of G-d. Immediately after these words in regard to the wrath of G-d, John encourages true believers with the following words,
“Here is the patience of the saints, here are the ones keeping the commandments of G-d and the faith of Yeshua. And I heard a voice from the heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead, the ones who in the L-rd die from now. Yes says the Spirit, in order that they will rest from their labors, for their works follow after them.” Revelation 14:12-13
It is vital that the reader understand the purposes of chapter fourteen and its relationship to chapter seven. An important question which must be answered is if the 144,000 mentioned in chapter seven are in fact the same 144,000 which are spoken of in chapter fourteen? In chapter seven, the only thing which is said concerning the 144,000 is that they are from the twelve tribes of Israel and they are sealed prior to the wrath of G-d. There is absolutely no other information provided in this chapter concerning the 144,000. When considering the message of chapter seven, a few statements can be made. It is clear that the wrath of G-d (the Lamb) is delayed for these two events to take place.
- The Sealing of the 144,000
- A large, innumerable multitude from all the nations, tribes, people and tongues were brought to heaven and stood before the throne, praising the Lamb (G-d).
At first glance, this great multitude seems to represent believers, as it is clear that they have faith in the Lamb, i.e. Yeshua and they are in heaven.
The reader is told that this multitude are the ones who came out of The Great Tribulation (See verses 13-14). Is this multitude standing in heaven a reference to the so called “Tribulation Saints”? Or is it simply that John is emphasizing to his audience that believers in general, will suffer greatly during The Great Tribulation, as a way of encouraging all believers in the End Times? When carefully examining the book of Revelation it is most obvious that John addresses his book uniquely to those who will live during the events that he wrote about.
“The Revelation of Messiah Yeshua which G-d gave to him to show to His servants which must take place with haste…” Revelation 1:1
John reveals the numerous visions that G-d gave to him specifically to the ones who would be living at the time these events would happen. Therefore, it is not surprising that he speaks in a manner that highlights what those in that last generation will experience and from their point of view. In other words, it is not John’s intent to say that this great multitude are only “Tribulation Saints”, it is simply that he is writing to and about those who will be living in that final generation. Towards the end of the chapter, he writes that these should no longer hunger nor thirst anymore and the Lamb will feed them and lead them to the living fountain of waters and Yeshua will wipe away every tear from their eyes (see verses 14-17). Such benefits are not reserved only for those believers during The Great Tribulation, but for all believers. Therefore, although there is a clear emphasis upon the believers who will live during The Great Tribulation, the multitude is actually comprised of all believers throughout all the generations.
It is necessary that the reader understand that there is a difference between The Great Tribulation and great tribulation. In Revelation 7:14, the term τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης is found. Please notice that the definite articles appear. The definite article is simply the word “the” (τῆς). This means that John is not speaking about great tribulation in general, but a specific time period known as The Great Tribulation. Whereas in the Gospels, Yeshua speaks about the second half of the Tribulation period (the final three and one half years) as a period of great tribulation (θλῖψις μεγάλη) for Israel. Please notice that the definite articles are not used in this passage. An untrained Bible student will assume that The Great Tribulation will take place as the wrath of G-d is falling towards the end of the tribulation period; however, this is not true! The term The Great Tribulation is used to describe the period of time when believers are suffering intense persecution precisely because of faith in Yeshua.
When closely studying the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation chapter seven, there is no Scriptural evidence at all that those sealed from the twelve tribes are believers. They are called servants of G-d, but there is no connection whatsoever to Yeshua. However, when one examines Revelation chapter fourteen, the 144,000 are strongly connected to Yeshua, as they follow the Lamb, Messiah Yeshua and are called the first-fruits ἀπαρχὴ unto G-d and to the Lamb (see verse 4). This Greek word is strongly connected to Yeshua’s resurrection.
I have already mentioned that the 144,000 are never called by any verse in the Bible “evangelists”. Such a designation is totally from the thoughts of man and has no Scriptural foundation. It is rather as previously stated, an angel which evangelizes the world,
“And I saw another angel in the midst of the heavens having the everlasting (eternal) Gospel to evangelize to the ones dwelling upon the earth; and to every nation and tribe and language and people.” Revelation 14:6
This verse helps the reader to understand and interpret properly the words of Yeshua when He said,
“And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world for a testimony to all the nations; and then will come the end.” Matthew 24:14
There is no way to deny the relationship between these two verses. The question which must be asked is to what end is Yeshua referring?
When studying the second half of Revelation chapter fourteen, and the next section of Matthew chapter twenty-four, there is once again a close relationship between these passages, as both of these sections speak about the wrath of G-d being poured out. This is clearly seen in the following verse,
“And the same will drink from the wine of the anger of G-d, which has been mixed, undiluted in the cup of His wrath and he will be tormented in the fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb.” Revelation 14:10
One must remember the promise of our Blessed Hope, i.e. the Rapture; for G-d promises that all believers in Yeshua will not experience the wrath of G-d.
“For G-d has not appointed us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our L-rd Messiah Yeshua.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9
This verse informs the believer that the Rapture must occur prior to the wrath of G-d being poured out upon this world. This fact provides vital information which enables one to dogmatically answer the question concerning to what end was Yeshua referring in Matthew 24:14. The answer is the end of the Church Age. In other words, the Church Age comes to an end with the Rapture, i.e. Our Blessed Hope, which takes place immediately before the wrath of G-d. Such an interpretation of Matthew 24:14 fits well with the next section of Matthew chapter twenty-four, as there is a change from Yeshua speaking to and about His disciples (those in the last days) to only the Jewish people in Israel. Some have strongly argued that the Rapture must happen prior to the final seven years, i.e. Daniel’s seventieth week. What is the basis for this view? Many claim that because the Church was not in the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, then the Church cannot be in the seventieth week. Such an argument relies on a faulty rationale. There is absolutely no Biblical mandate which prohibits the Church from entering into the seventieth week (the final seven years). The Scriptural prohibition is only that the Church cannot be present on earth when the wrath of G-d begins.
When John finishes speaking about the wrath of G-d in Revelation 14:11, he then speaks words of encouragement to believers to have patience and to endure the persecution which they will suffer for their faith. He informs those who will lose their lives for their faith that they are blessed and will receive rest for their labors (see Revelation 14:12-13).
The fourteenth chapter of Revelation ends with two harvests being revealed. The first harvest represents the Rapture as the One Who sits on the cloud, having a golden crown is the Son of Man, Yeshua. It is Yeshua Himself Who takes a sickle and harvests the earth. Then the reader is told that angels are the ones who oversee the second harvest. One angel takes a sharp sickle and gathers the vine of the earth into the great winepress of the wrath of G-d. These two harvests are exactly what Yeshua taught in the Parable of the Tares and the Wheat (see Matthew 13:24-30). In this parable, the wheat and the tares are separated at the time of the harvest. The wheat is placed in the barn, while the tares are cast into fire (G-d’s wrath). Neither this Parable nor the end of Revelation chapter fourteen attempt to present a detailed description of the End Times; rather simply a summary statement that G-d will remove believers from the earth, prior to His wrath and that there are two separate purposes for His two comings. The first is the Rapture, which precedes the second harvest which results in those who did not accept the Gospel to be judged. Neither Revelation fourteen nor the Parable of the Tares and the Wheat focus upon the time between these two events; just that the Rapture occurs before G-d’s wrath appears and punishes the non-believers.
In conclusion, there is no evidence from the Bible that the 144,000 are Jewish evangelists who bring about the greatest spiritual awaking the world has known. There is no Scriptural verse that speaks of them sharing the Gospel. When only using the Biblical testimony, the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation chapter seven seem to refer to Israel and does so in a general sense. The number 144,000 relates to the Kingdom of G-d, as it does when John speaks about the final state of the Kingdom, the New Jerusalem. In other words, one should not take the number 144,000 as literally 144,000 individuals, but rather as those who are sealed from Israel, i.e. the Jewish people who are sealed for a kingdom invitation which will be offered at the end of the tribulation period.
When looking at chapter fourteen of the book of Revelation, those mentioned are not described in a similar manner to the 144,000 of chapter seven. In chapter fourteen, the 144,000 have a strong allegiance to Yeshua and are in heaven, having been removed from the earth prior to the wrath of G-d being poured out. This means that the 144,000 of chapter fourteen represent the Church. This teaches that G-d has kingdom people from two distinct groups. Such an idea is exactly what Paul revealed in Romans chapter eleven.
Paul assures the reader that the disobedience of Israel did not thwart the plan of G-d to bring the message of salvation to the Gentiles. In fact, it was the fall of Israel that actually turned out for the riches of the world (see Romans 11:11). Paul’s intent is that Israel’s rejection of the Gospel (to a great extent) has caused the nations (a large number of the Gentiles) to come to faith in Messiah Yeshua. So if by Israel’s fall, salvation came to the Gentiles, what will the Jewish people’s acceptance of Messiah bring about (see Romans 11:12)? What is Paul implying will be the outcome of Israel’s salvation in Romans 11:12? It is not some worldwide revival as others have suggested; rather the answer is clearly provided to the reader in Romans 11:15,
“For if the casting away of them is the reconciliation of the world, what (will be) the acceptance; if not life from the dead?”
There can be no doubt that the phrase, life from the dead, refers to the resurrection. In the Scriptures, when there is a reference to the resurrection, one should think about the Kingdom of G-d. This means that when Israel comes to faith in Yeshua at the end of this age, at the time of the Second Coming, one should not expect a worldwide revival by means of some last day Apostolic movement; but simply that the Kingdom of G-d will be established.
This is what Paul taught towards the end of Romans chapter eleven when he states that the partial blindness has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles come to faith; and then G-d will turn His attention back to the Jewish people (see Romans 11:25). The well known Biblical phrase, “And thus all of Israel will be saved…” (see Romans 11:26) does not teach that every Jewish person will be saved, but that Israel, i.e. the people of G-d, is comprised of two groups of people, Gentiles and Jews. One could think of the first group as those from the nations (including some Jewish people) coming to faith and being part of the Church and the second group being the remnant of the Jewish people, i.e. those Jewish people who are alive when Yeshua returns at the time of Second Coming and who will actually see Him. It is at that time they will be saved by the same Messiah and through faith in Him. This is the intent of the second half of Romans 11:26 “…just as it has been written, ‘The Redeemer will come out of Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob….”
The concept of two distinct groups making up the Kingdom people could be the intent of why John saw a vision of those singing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb in Revelation 15:3.
This understanding of the 144,000 presented in this brief article removes the numerous inconsistencies which other interpretations of the 144,000 have in setting forth their interpretation of them.