The 144,000 are first mentioned in Revelation 7. Our previous post examined the seal of God found here and we learned that harming of the Earth is held back until God’s servants are sealed. John sees in vision that there are 144,000 that are sealed. Who are these 144,000?
To answer this, we have to take a step back to the beginnings of Israel. Remember, Israel was the name given to Jacob when he had a conversion experience by wrestling with the angel. Jacob meant “deceiver,” but Israel meant “May God prevail.” Exodus 4:22 reveals that Israel was God’s son, His firstborn. With the covenant God made with Abraham to raise a nation, the children of Israel were to be a shining light to the world around them. They were supposed to reveal God’s character to the world around them. Did they fulfill that ideal? Unfortunately they did not. Instead of standing out amongst the other cultures of the world, they adopted the practices of those around them, sometimes going to even greater depths! He delivered them from Egypt, was patient with them through the wilderness. He lead them into the Promised Land and helped them conquer their enemies when they were up to the task. He sent judges to lead them out of sin and deliver them from their enemies. And when they rejected God as their leader, He was patient and continued working with them through kings beginning with Saul and David. He sent prophets their way as they gradually descended into more wickedness. He warned them they would be taken to Babylon as captives if they did not repent. Unfortunately that time came. But God did not reject His people.
In Daniel we see God communicating with him regarding a final chance for the nation of Israel to live up to its idea. Remember the Israelites made a covenant with God in Exodus 19:8 and 24:3,7 that they would do whatever God said. It was an agreement they signed up for. Daniel’s vision in chapter 9 (see previous post) revealed that they would have 490 years to come back to repentance: “70 weeks are determined upon your people and your holy city” (v.24). What would happen if Israel did not turn back to God?
Matthew 21 tells a story of a master that lent out his vineyard to tenants. Servants that the master subsequently sent were beaten and killed by the tenants, and they ultimately killed the master’s son. In Matthew 21:43,44 we see that the tenants represented Israel, and God the master. The kingdom of God had been given to Israel to care for and spread, but if they did not live up to that ideal then it would be taken away from them as a nation and given to another nation that would bear its fruit.
Remember shortly after Jesus’ birth an angel told Joseph and his family to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:15), to fulfill the prophecy that was mentioned in Hosea 11:1, where God would call His son out of Egypt. Israel was the name given to one man who was victorious in a spiritual battle, and then transferred to an entire nation that could also be victorious. In Hosea we see that Jesus is also referred to as Israel. Jesus was also given the name of Israel because he overcame in a spiritual battle. Throughout the book of Matthew we see that Jesus overcame where Israel failed. In the Old Testament (OT) Israel is called the true vine, in the New Testament (NT) Jesus is called the vine. In the OT Israel was called “My son, the firstborn.” In the NT Jesus is the firstborn. Isaiah called Israel the seed of Abraham, in Galatians, Jesus is called the seed of Abraham. In the OT Israel referred to a person as well as his descendants, who were also Israel. In the NT, Jesus is shown as the new Israel, and His followers are also Israel as well. Galatians 3:28,29 reveal that we are all one in Jesus. No matter your background, you can be one with Jesus and be heirs of the promise. Romans 2 also supports this point.
The Jews in Jesus’ day prided themselves in biologically being Abraham’s descendants, but Jesus said in John 8:39 if they really were Abraham’s children they would do the works of Abraham. What did Abraham do? He believed, and it was reckoned to Him as righteousness. Going back to the parable in Matthew 21 God sent His Son as a last chance for the nation of Israel to turn to Him. What did they do? They killed His Son! They outright rejected the Savior. This was the final chance. In Matthew 23:28 we see the final, ultimate rejection. Israel had rejected God by choosing to kill His Son, therefore God rejected the nation of Israel and left their house. This is why the end of the 70 weeks in Daniel 9 is important, it signified the end of salvation through a literal Jewish nation by sending the gospel to the Gentiles. The Jews were given the good news first, and they were to share it. But they chose to stifle it. So the Gospel went to the gentiles, Jesus became a new Israel, and His followers (no matter their nationality) can be a part of the spiritual nation of Israel.
Some say that in 1948 with the re-establishment of Israel that prophecy was fulfilled. But while many cheered the creation of a homeland for the nationality there is no link between this event and the spiritual nation of Israel that God is working through right now. Remember Israel rejected God multiple times, until finally killing His Son. Therefore God rejected them.
When we come to Revelation 7 in vision we know this is referring to the spiritual Israel, the nation that God has set up as those being descendants of Jesus, where anyone who chooses to follow Him is a part of that nation. In Revelation 14 John is still looking and he sees a lamb (representing Jesus remember), and with there were 144,000 with the Fathers name written in their foreheads. Remember the forehead is the seat of thinking, so these people have internalized God’s character. They were redeemed from the Earth – becoming saints through the grace of Jesus Christ (ALONE). They were virgins. Not in the literal sense, for God considers marriage honorable and the bed is holy and undefiled. Celibacy offers no spiritual advantage. In Revelation a woman represents a church, and we discussed that in length. These people have not been defiled with the false teachings of other churches who do not follow God’s will. They are spiritually pure. Remember John is in vision, and if everything else is symbolic then it would stand that the 144,000 is also symbolic. The mountain, the lamb, the virgins, and the name are all symbolic, the number is also symbolic.
The 144,000 are sealed with the seal of God, not marked with the mark of the beast. They are fully surrendered to Jesus. They sing a new song (Rev 14:3) because they have had a unique experience with Jesus. They are alive when Jesus comes again. They follow Jesus wherever He goes. They had to be committed. God’s people today must be fully committed and ready to follow Him wherever He leads. 1 Peter 2:9 reveals that God’s people are chosen, that they are a royal priesthood to proclaim God’s praises for pulling them out of darkness. They stand out from the crowd, like the literal nation of Israel was supposed to do.
How would this look?
The Biblical description implies that these people will stick out like a sore thumb. Their entertainment choices, lifestyle choices, spiritual choices, physical choices, and a host of other choices will run counter to the accepted norm (which happens to keep changing by the way).
The 144,000 is not a cutthroat competition to get into because there are limited spots available. It is symbolic of the kind of people in the end time who will stand for God when everything around them is falling. Like Enoch, they will have walked with God for so long that the next natural step will be going to God’s home. They may face the laughter of others, but in heaven’s eyes they are getting ready for a different future.
We want to be a part of the 144,000. We want to completely surrender our lives to Jesus, knowing that we will continue to fall but the closer we draw to Jesus, the less likely it will happen. And we long for the day when there will be no more separation between God and man.
Do you want to be a part of the 144,000?