Who Are the 144,000?

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea,  saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

Revelation 7:1-8

 

Revelation 7 forms a parenthesis around the action (I like to call them Detail Popouts) to describe two specific groups of people – one on earth and one in heaven.  This is a continuation of the events of Seal 6 – the seventh seal is not opened until after John describes these groups.  Remember right before this vision there has been a catastrophic shaking of the earth, the rapture occurs, and everyone left behind is terrified:

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? – Revelation 6:15-17.

Revelation 7 answers the question  “who is able to stand?”.  Two groups will be able to stand:

  1. The Church – Mentioned second, but we will briefly discuss it first.  The church is the invisible body of Christ, defined by being Born Again of the Spirit of God – and sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee.  With the saints safely delivered into the hands of the Lamb in heaven, the Holy Spirit’s seal in the church body is released.  God immediately moves to then seal a special group of 144,000 elect individuals on earth.  God will not leave the earth without witness.
  2. The 144,000 servants of God.  Let’s examine these in depth!

There is much confusion over the identity of the 144,000 described in Revelation 7.  A literal reading of the text makes it very clear that these are 12,000 people from each of 12 specific tribes of ethnic Israel (despite what certain cults and denominations claim).  It is likely that they are men, as later they are described as virgins – never having had intercourse with women (or men!!!).   “Sons of Israel” is always used to refer to national Israel (physical descendants from Jacob), and never to the church.  The individuals may or may not know that they belong to these tribes, but rest assured, God knows.

Immediately after the rapture of the Church (when the fullness of the Gentiles grafted into the new covenant is complete (Rom 11:25), God zooms His attention in on Israel.  His silence with her will be broken and their partial hardening will be lifted!  Paul details the partial blindness of Israel well (Romans 11:1-2, 5-8, 11, 25-29):

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew….at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:  “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.” Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:  “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs,  for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Reconciling the nation of Israel to believing faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah is the primary purpose of the 70th week of Daniel (“7 year Tribulation”, “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble).  God will start this process immediately after the rapture of the church by “sealing” 144,000 specific Israelite individuals.  

Sealing designates these people as belonging to God – showing possession and identification.  The church was sealed by the Holy Spirit indwelling in our hearts; the 144,000 will be sealed on their foreheads.  This may or may not be a visible mark.  I find the forehead to be an interesting location, due to its’ connection  with spiritual enlightenment in some religions – the “third eye”.  The antichrist will later mimic this and “seal” his followers on their foreheads or right hands with his mark (code 666).  I have heard that the significance of the forehead sealing is true belief, whereas the hand sealing is for those who are willing to act like they believe in order to receive the benefits (economic interactions).  Of course, with God, “acting as if” doesn’t count.  It is only true faith (believing in your head and heart) that counts.

We are not told the sealing process, but these individuals are clearly “saved” – as in, become believers in Jesus Christ.  These are the firstfruits to both God (observant, ethnic Israelites) and to the Lamb (born again in Christ) after the rapture; firstfruits of the rebirth of Israel.  The “four winds” of God’s judgment on earth are held back by 4 angels until this group is sealed.  The fact that judgment must be “held back” indicates that it is actively desiring to break forth!   The salvation of this select group must be very quick.  One speculation is that it might occur between the feasts of Trumpets and Atonement during the 10 Days of Awe.

The 144,000 will likely function as missionaries to the nation of Israel, in conjunction with the two witnesses.  They will preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand – just as John the Baptist heralded Jesus at His first coming.  This will be to continue fulfilling Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (An angel completes the task before the 7 bowls of wrath are poured out).

This group is specifically protected from the demonic army judgment of Trumpet 5  ([The locusts] were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  Revelation 9:4).  We are shown a foreshadowing of this in Luke 10:19-20, where Jesus sends out 70 witnesses along with the 12 disciples for a time – “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 

The 144,000 may also be supernaturally protected from God’s wrath in the other trumpets as well (we aren’t told).  However, there is precedence for this in Ezekiel chapters 8-9.  Back in Ezekiel’s day, idolatry and sun worship had infiltrated the nation of Israel.  When men in the inner court – a sacred and holy location – started worshiping the sun, turning their backs on God in His own Temple, God had had enough:

Then he cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying, “Bring near the executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.” And behold, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his weapon for slaughter in his hand, and with them was a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist. And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar. Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist.  And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”  And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity.  Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.”  Ezekiel 9:1-6

The angel of death passed over those who had God’s mark on their foreheads, those who abhorred the idolatry of their nation.

After their sealing and special protection during Trumpet 5, nothing is said of the 144,000 until sometime after Trumpet 7 sounds.  The effects of Trumpet 6 (the second woe) end when the two witnesses are taken up into heaven, which is likely 3.5 days after the abomination of desolation (see Revelation 11).  Trumpet 7 unleashes the 7 Bowls, but we know that Bowl 1 doesn’t occur until at least after the mark of the beast system is established (as it only affects those who take the mark).  So the Bowls begin well into the “Great Tribulation” (last half of Daniel’s 70th week).  In the chronology of Revelation, the 144,000 show up as a group in heaven after Trumpet 7 but before Bowl 1:

Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.  And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,  and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.  It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.  Revelation 14:1-5

Their location on the heavenly Mount Zion is confirmed in Hebrews 12:22 and by the presence of the throne, four living creatures, and elders.  They have been “redeemed from the earth”, which means they are no longer ON the earth.  Their virginity may actually mean physical virginity, or it could mean spiritual virginity (never having defiled themselves by worshiping other gods, i.e. the antichrist).  These are children of the Truth (Jesus), as opposed to having the Father of Lies (satan).  As to their sudden appearance in heaven, I see several possibilities:

  1. These 144,000 are raptured and transformed alive, all as a group, right before the bowls of wrath are poured out.  They are “firstfruits” of Israel for God and the Lamb.  We previously saw “firstfruits” to the Lamb when Jesus was resurrected from the dead along with “many saints”.  The main harvest of the saints in Jesus is the resurrection and rapture of the Church.  The main harvest of Israel will be after the Millennial Kingdom at the Great White Throne general resurrection.  I think this possibility is less likely than the next:
  2. These 144,000 are martyred at some point after Trumpet 5 but before Bowl 1.  They may be specifically targeted by the Beast (antichrist, now possessed by a satanic beast-spirit), along with the 2 witnesses, as his first course of action after rising from the abyss (his “resurrection from the dead”).  This would explain why they wouldn’t have fled to the wilderness as directed by Jesus in Matthew 24 – the abomination of desolation may occur AFTER their deaths, or they may not have the time or the ability to flee.  Although they would arrive individually in heaven, it probably would be a short timeframe and thus we see the vision of them when they are all deceased and collected together.  These would be souls, and would receive resurrected bodies at the end of the tribulation period.  They would be the firstfruits of the “Tribulation martyrs”.

Note that it is unclear in Revelation 14 if these are souls (pre-resurrection) or bodies (post-resurrection).  There is no mention of their death or cause of death, so we can only speculate.

In the listing of the 144,000, you may notice that the tribe of Joseph is there, instead of being split into Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph’s sons, who were adopted by Jacob/Israel).  However, Manasseh does, indeed appear as well.  Who did he replace, and where is Ephraim?  Dan and Ephraim are missing.  Beginning and End provides the likely explanation:

Where is the tribe of Dan?

In the list of twelve tribes in Revelation 7, the tribe of Dan is not included. In most lists of the twelve tribes in Scripture, the tribes of Levi was not there (because their inheritance was The Lord) and neither was Joseph (because Jospeh’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh were adopted by Jacob and they were counted as part of the 12 tribes in place of Joseph).  Dan is always listed until the end times list in Revelation 7.  So why is Dan not there? That answer can be found in the book of Judges.

Rather than take their part of the Promised Land as Joshua had commanded them to do years earlier, Dan continued as nomads, traveling for land they preferred. When they finally decided to enter their designated area, they robbed the home of a man named Micah who was a worshiper of false gods. Micah also hired a corrupt Levite priest to work for him in leading his demonic worship. The Danites forced the priest to come with them and serve them once and their nation was established they fell into spiritual idolatry, setting up a new religion centered on the stolen idols and graven images. This flagrant rebellion against God was reminiscent of when the Israelites worshiped the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God. This sin was so severe that thousands of men were executed as a result. Now decades later, in the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan was taking their sin to the next level. Scripture states that the graven images of false gods were set up in Dan until the time of the Assyrian captivity. So for centuries, the nation of Dan was a center of pagan worship and a rejection of God right in the Promised Land.

Further confirming that they were most likely disqualified from being a part of the end times revival of Israel were two prophecies made about this tribe. In Genesis, when Jacob was blessing his twelve sons who were the patriarchs of the twelve tribes, he said of Dan:

Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. – Genesis 49:16-17.

Dan would one day judge Israel but not in righteousness as a godly judge, but as a “serpent by the way, an adder in the path.” This immediately brings up a connection to Satan who in Revelation is called “that old Serpent.”   The designation of being a “serpent” and “adder” appears to be prophetic of Dan’s decision to enter into rebellion against God for as long as they existed as a nation.

Another association with devil is the prediction that the tribe of Dan will “biteth the horse heels.” In Genesis 3, God told Satan that he would “bruise the heel” of the Messiah, which was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Could a descendant of the tribe of Dan be connected to the end times Antichrist? 

Where Is The Tribe of Ephraim?

Similarly, the tribe of Ephraim is excluded from the list of  tribes in the 144,000. And it is for the same reason – a rejection of God in favor leading the nation of Israel into satanic worship. This offense was done no more blatantly than by King Jeroboam, who ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel after the nation split following the reign of King Solomon and is described in 1 Kings 11.

Because of Solomon’s idolatry and worship of false gods and demons, the Kingdom of Israel was split, with the ten tribes forming the Northern Kingdom (called “Israel”) and the tribes of Benjamin, Judah and Levi comprising the southern Kingdom (called “Judah”). Jeroboam, who of the tribe of Ephraim, was given rulership over the Northern Kingdom. So his tribe was selected to lead the 9 other tribes with them in this time. But Jeroboam’s and the Northern Kingdom’s prosperity was conditioned on the King obeying God and putting faith and trust in His Word.

At this time of his Divine appointment to be King, Jeroboam fled to Egypt in fear for his life that Solomon, who was still ruling at the time, would kill him. After Solomon’s death, he returned and the people of the Northern Kingdom embraced him as their king. In the southern kingdom, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, now ruler, prepared to wage war against Jeroboam and unite the kingdom once again. But before he launched his attack, God sent a prophet to tell Rehoboam not to fight but honor God’s plan of a divided Kingdom. Rehoboam obeyed and God proved He was truly protecting Jeroboam’s throne.

Despite this Jeroboam still had no faith in God’s Word. Jerusalem, the Holy City of the children of Israel, was in the Southern Kingdom. This meant that the temple of Solomon, where the ark of the covenant was located and where all worship and sacrifices to God were to take place, was there as well. Even though the Kingdom was divided, God’s law still required sacrifice and offering to take place in Jerusalem at the temple. Fearful, that the people of his kingdom would go worship in Jerusalem (and perhaps want to live there permanently or give their allegiance to the kingdom of Judah), Jeroboam doubted God and fell into sin:

And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense. – 1 Kings 12:26-33.

This time of testing revealed the wickedness of Jeroboam. Rather than trust in God for protection, Jeroboam turned from the Lord and set up his own pagan false religion in the Northern Kingdom. He had golden calves made for the people to worship and make offerings to, copying one of the worst sins in the Old Testament when Aaron made the same sinful error in the book of Exodus. Jeroboam appointed the “lowest people” to be priests, when God specifically commanded that only members of the tribe of Levi could serve as priests. And note that the golden calves were set up in Bethel and Dan. The pagan, demonic worship of Dan continued and Jeroboam made it special location for altars to the false gods he set up. This evil king even went as far as to declare his own date for the feast of tabernacles. And he led the entire Northern Kingdom into rebellion against God.

Jeroboam’s sin was so offensive and so grievous that throughout Scripture “the sins of Jeroboam” are used time and time again as a standard of evil when other later kings were being described. The Northern Kingdom was so rebellious that almost all of its kings were pagans who worshiped false gods and demons. And it was all started by Jeroboam. In 1 Kings 13, the judgment of this sinful king of the tribe of Ephraim was pronounced: “And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.”

So like the tribe of Dan, Ephraim’s rampant idolatry and rejection of faith in God disqualified it from the 144,000.

Full article HERE

Main Menu – God’s Mosaic Prophecy Model

A Disclaimer:    The Bible is infallible.  I am not.  Be a Berean – examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!

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