The 144,000 are a group of God’s people who live in the last hours of this worlds history.
They are mentioned 3 times in the book of Revelation – once in Revelation chapter 7 and twice in chapter 14. They are often thought of as the epitome of all Christians, shining brightly, specifically at the end of time. The first time they are mentioned, Rev. 7, is in the context of the sealing work (vs.1-4) and their earthly roots (vs.4-8) – i.e. they are mentioned as coming from the 12 tribes of Israel. They are followed by a great multitude (vs.9). If they are a special group of people who live at the end of time when Jesus returns, then who are they and who are the ‘great multitude’ that are mentioned? In describing the 144,000 in Rev.14 we are told. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, [being] the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. Rev.14:4,5 As we will see later in the article this seems to depict this group of people as very pure in their faith, being without fault and without guile.
Their first mention in chapter 7 emphasises the fact that they come from the twelve original tribes of Israel. There are no people living today who could trace their roots back so far as to qualify as belonging to any of the original twelve tribes. In the nation of Israel today there is no one who could trace their lineage back to that time. This must be referring to spiritual Israel. We remember the words of Paul in Gal.3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. NRSV
We are all Abrahams seed whether we are one of the 144,000 or whether we are part of the great multitude. What sets the 144,000 apart is their purity of doctrine as we shall see. They are not necessarily part of an organised church, which will come as a surprise to many. No church has a monopoly on truth. Even in the organisation that professes to be the ‘remnant’ church there is deep division in doctrine – namely on the writings of` Paul and the understanding of the sanctuary.
Like Israel of old, these people the 144,000, are raised up as the result of prophecy. Israel of old were raised up by the seemingly impossible word of God to 100 year old Abram. It has always been said of those who have been called of God: In thee shall all nations be blessed. Gal.3:8 And remember, For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Rom. 11:3 ESV
And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Genesis 15:5 NASB
Not only would Abraham be blessed but this blessing would flow to the whole world.
I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; Genesis 26:4 NASB
And as we have seen in Paul’s text above God is going to fulfil that promise with his New Covenant promise. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Gal.3:29 NRSV
The 144,000 are real but they are seen only by God. They are a mysterious number known only to God, not necessarily on church rolls. Is the 144,000 a literal number or is it a symbolic, ‘spiritual’ number? Many have asked that question. Perhaps others will be led by God to have insights into that question. To briefly tread that path we could make the following observations. The worldwide membership of the SDA church is roughly 20,000,000. E G White made the following statement: “It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner.” (ChS 41.1) If that was the case then, what would it be now? One in 40, one in 50, one in 100? Of course we are being silly and hypothetical here. If there were one in every hundred who had a full knowledge of truth and who were ready for translation that would equate to a number of, not 144,000 but 200,000. In reality we have no idea who constitute God’s 144,000, but they are real.
But why would the 144,000 be singled out for special privileges? Because they, like their ancestral counterparts have a knowledge of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is the floor plan of God’s way of salvation for the human race. So important is this knowledge that there is a progression here in the experience of God’s people. That is, the people who have a knowledge of the sanctuary. After talking of the origins and the condition of the 144,000 in Rev. 7, it goes on to delineate the role of intercession in God’s people. (Rev.8:3) As we have seen, this is fundamental and goes hand in hand with an understanding of the sanctuary. The smoke of the incense – intercession – prepares the way for the sounding of the trumpets.
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. Revelation 8:3-6 ESV
These intercessory prayers of God’s people are instrumental in bringing about the final work of God upon this earth. This is described from Rev.8:6 through to Rev.10:7 which says: but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. Rev.10:8
Then, as if to reinforce this set of events, the voice speaking to John reiterates their experience again. This is found in the very next verses – through to Rev.11:1.
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,” Rev.10:8-11;11:1 ESV
Remember there are no chapter divisions in the original text. Rev.11:1 brings our attention back to the ‘temple’ or the sanctuary.
This is one reason why the SDA church was raised up. To teach the Sabbath of creation as a bulwark against the theory of evolution. There is more to their message than believing that they are ‘commandment keepers’ simply because they ‘keep’ a different day. Generations of SDA’s have been taught that very thing. Embracing the true Sabbath rest as taught in the New Testament is a whole new concept to most SDA’s. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3:28 KJV We are called to a total surrender. This is taught in the burnt offering, covered in one of the first articles on this website. This paves the way for our understanding and application of the sanctuary truths – all of which have been upheld and taught on this website.
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, Rev.11:1 ESV
Never before in the history of this world have God’s people been so diverse and yet so connected. Modern technology is a gift from God to facilitate this miracle. This is how it will be in the final work. God has his church. They are an earnest, praying people. This is his pure church. Never before have we been able to testify to a world audience that we are Christian. Never before have we been able to have instant fellowship and prayerful unity with someone, not only next door, but on the other side of the planet.
The mention of the 12 tribes is preceded by the sealing work. This is a work that is done within the ‘invisible’ church – the spiritual body of Christ. This doesn’t make it any less real for spiritual things are spiritually discerned. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor.2:14 In fact these things are more real than what we can hear or see.
God will always be in complete control. He alone can see those who hold pure truth. They are the true spiritual body of Christ. As in Elijah’s day, God has his 7000 who haven’t bowed their knee to Baal. Yet I have left [me] seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, 1 Kings 19:18 These are what have been called the invisible church. Elsewhere God describes his people: He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8 We might think we are among that number but only God can see deep into our minds and hearts.
What spiritual lessons are there in equating these people who live at the end of time with the tribes of ancient Israel?
We are talking here of the Christian church that exists, not just 2000 years ago, but the church that exists today, in the 21st century. However, the fact that the book of Revelation first mentions this group and then takes pains to carefully delineate their origins, is of great significance. If we cast our mind back from the most ‘recent’ book of the Bible – Revelation – to the book of beginnings – Genesis – we find a less than flattering description of these original twelve tribes by none other than Jacob, their father. Why would the writer of the book of Revelation, who of course was divinely inspired, go to the trouble of listing the individual names of these tribes and their beginnings? Unless it was for a good reason. Genesis 49 reveals to us the ‘blessings’ of Jacob upon his sons. They are the spiritual forefathers of the Christian church today.
They are not “perfect”. In fact the Bible makes it clear that they are very much imperfect. One only has to read through the book of Genesis to realise this. The last two chapters of this book summarises this fact. In Genesis chapter 49 we are told:
And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you [that] which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him [shall] the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes [shall be] red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he [shall be] for an haven of ships; and his border [shall be] unto Zidon. Issachar [is] a strong ass couching down between two burdens: And he saw that rest [was] good, and the land that [it was] pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute. 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. I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD. Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last. Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties. Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel: Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren. Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil. All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them. Gen.49: 1-28
Words such as fruitful, blessed, excellence, strength and dignity may be there if we search for them but equally there are words such as, unstable, defiledst, cruelty, cursed anger, serpent. The sealing work of these people speaks very much of the grace of God. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. God’s work has always been dependant on his grace and his calling – not on the response of his people.
In these ‘blessings’ upon his twelve sons Jacob is totally honest, revealing the good and the bad. This is not unlike Jesus admonition to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 & 3 where he talks of the church, us, in our various stages of development in less than flattering words. As I have said in one of my home page articles:
“But this all happens in the context of the sealing work of the Holy Spirit. God is waiting with infinite patience for his people to find genuine Sabbath rest in the context of correct theology.”
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.” Rev.7:1-3
This sealing work is the work of the Holy Spirit in sealing or preparing individuals for the kingdom. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 ESV
This is the time in which we now live – when the sealing work of the Holy Spirit is taking place.
The second time the 144,000 are mentioned is in Rev 14 where the context is the time just prior to the second coming. (vs. 6 & 14) In this chapter there are other statements that speak of this group. Yes, Scripture is talking about real people who live right at the end of time. A lot happens between Revelation chapter 7 and chapter 14.
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, Rev. 14:1-4 ESV
But back to chapter 7. we are introduced to two groups of people in this 7th chapter of Revelation. One group, the 144,000 are called by God. They have the ‘truth’ – the true knowledge of God and they are being “sealed”.
The other group – the great multitude – have a deep experience with God. They know what it is to suffer – as can be seen from their experience. Their experience is described in Rev.7:9,13-17 Old Testament scripture talks of people who, though they may not have a full knowledge of the things of God, are nevertheless very close to the heart of God. Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! Isaiah 43:8 ESV These people are blind but they can see. They are deaf but they can hear. They have every right to the kingdom of God because of their willingness to see and hear.
Something has happened to the 144,000 between chapters 7 and 14. In chapter 7 they are earthy, of the world. In chapter 14 they are depicted as pure in doctrine and experience. As I have said in the article “A Message For Sabbath Keepers” they have become less egocentric and more altruistic. Their thoughts are more of others and less of themselves. Immediately after, in chapter eight, we are told:
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. Rev. 8:3-5 KJV
There is a progressive experience of the 144,000 between chapters 7 and 14. The experiences of chapters 8 through to 13 are revealing. Between chapters 7 and 14 they have discovered the power of prayer. (Rev.8:3-5) This then leads to the sounding of the trumpets. (Rev.8:7 through to Rev.12:6) These trumpets describe what happens due to the prayers of God’s people.
God’s people are beginning to say, Enough! It is time for thee Lord to work, for they have made void thy law. Ps.119:126 In the New Testament sense that means those who are unprepared, by refusing to believe in and surrender to Jesus. Sin in the New Testament sense is not believing in Jesus.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; John 16:7-9 ESV In todays world unbelief has become a science.
Around the turn of last century when those who had been given a knowledge of the sanctuary were lost (and still are) in the miasma of unbelief, dissension, and theological debate, God was raising up people who recognised the true value of intercession.
Oswald Chambers wrote on June 17th 1909: “I believe more and more that this is His way―intercessory prayer, this is the way He makes us broken bread and poured out wine for other people.”
Charles Spurgeon said in 1861 “The circumstance which attended Job’s restoration is that to which I invite your particular attention. “The Lord turned again the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.” Intercessory prayer was the omen of his returning greatness. It was the bow in the cloud, the dove bearing the olive branch, the voice of the turtle announcing the coming summer. When his soul began to expand itself in holy and loving prayer for his erring brethren, then the heart of God showed itself to him by returning to him his prosperity without, and cheering his soul within. Brethren, it is not fetching a laborious compass, when from such a text as this I address you upon the subject of prayer for others. Let us learn today to imitate the example of Job, and pray for our friends, and peradventure if we have been in trouble, our captivity shall be turned.”
In the articles on this website there is one entitled “The Scapegoat”. The reader is invited to prayerfully read this article. And herein lies a truth. The 144,000 are the scapegoats for the world. Their role is not one of self-aggrandizement. Their role is one of self sacrifice for the human race. To quote from the above mentioned article: “The typical message of the scapegoat is teaching us not to stand aloof and think in some way we are superior, but to identify with – take upon ourselves even, the weakness and suffering of those around us, as the Holy Spirit leads. To be a ‘scapegoat’ is in reality a state of mind. It isn’t a spirit of pride, aloofness, or superiority. It is a spirit of genuine humility, forbearance, and unfailing courtesy. Who of us can measure up to such a thing? But it is a basic principle of the New Testament.”
[Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Phil.2:3”
The focus of the people of God who hold the truth of the Sabbath and the Sanctuary becomes, not on themselves and their differences but on the people around them. Wrangling over points of theology must be replaced by a genuine concern for the world around them. They will not then stand aloof and judgemental of their fellow man. They will have a genuine burden for the unbelievers as does God. Then, their prayers for these people are described as ….fire from the altar and threw it upon the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. Rev.8:5 ESV God has chosen such strong language here because of the critical importance of this work. Will we ever see this happen? We need to remember that if those who hold the oracles of God (Rom.3:2) do not do this work then God is able to raise up believers from anywhere, who will. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; Matt.3:9,10 NRSV The great multitude were a group from all over the world which no man could number. They were not a group that could be delineated like the 144,000. They are not proscribed by a certain set of values or doctrines as were the Jews of old – the forerunners, the spiritual ancestors of the 144,000.
We have all read stories of people in some of the darker countries of the world where there is real persecution of Christians. How often have these people stand for truth at the cost of their lives and the lives of their families. This is happening in the world today! We’re not talking about some horrific persecutions of the dark ages or some futuristic events. We’re talking about what’s happening in our world at this time. The treatment of people in Muslim countries who become Christians. The treatment of Christians in communist countries. Organisations like ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ are faithful in bringing many of these occurrences to light. These people have found salvation and peace in their wonderful Saviour and are prepared to give their lives for him. They may not have gone to Bible college. They may not have a grasp of theology like their privileged counterparts in the ‘safer’ western countries. Eternal life and salvation is not about knowing correct doctrine and theology. It is about knowing Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When the Lord of Glory came to this earth as a helpless babe there were not too many of his own countrymen to welcome him. There were a few. But generally, those who held the truth, the written oracles of God, didn’t discern the lateness of the hour. John the baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadducee’s of his time: O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Matt.3:7-10 KJV
They may have been practising the sanctuary service. They were dutifully offering the daily burnt offering but they did not discern the true Lamb of God when he was born in a manger. There were some of the humble folk, shepherds, who were aware of what was happening. But the spiritual leaders, the priesthood, were blissfully unaware, of what was taking place.
It was left to wise men from the east to herald the coming of the Son of Man. These men wouldn’t have had a full working knowledge of the sanctuary service and the law. But they must have been honest hearted souls who knew true wisdom. They knew what it was to follow the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and minds.
God’s church (i.e. its members) has never been perfect. Then who are the 144,000? They are Christian believers who know the gospel. Do they represent organised religion? Not necessarily. The fact that the 144,000 understand ‘truth’ better than most other Christians doesn’t make them any better than anyone else. In fact the vast majority of Christians do not have a perfect understanding of scriptural truth. Perfect knowledge is not salvation.
All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever. Someday prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge-these gifts will disappear. 1 Corinthians 13:8 TLB
Salvation is knowing God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. The great multitude go through their own personal testing times. This shows clearly that they are very much God’s children. …for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts. Heb.12:6 NRSV
When John beheld the great multitude (vs.9) one of the elders asked the question (vs.13): And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:13-14 KJV
Every child of God since Adam has gone through their own personal great tribulation. We don’t have to look for some futuristic interpretation of this verse. God sees all and in a cumulative sense that is being fulfilled now.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Tim. 3:12 Like we noticed in the beginning of this article, Revelation is for all Christians at all times until Jesus comes. (Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. Rev.1:3, ESV)
We can’t go too far in a study of the book of Revelation without stepping back and looking at the nature of the book. It differs from the rest of the New Testament but is very much part of the New Testament or ‘New Covenant’. While the rest of the New Testament is like an historical narrative, describing events as they happened upon this earth: the book of Revelation is different in that it is a direct revelation of the mind of Jesus Christ or the mind of God. God dwells in a light which we cannot approach. He is the God of Eternity. In our life we are constrained by time. There is a past, a present and a future. With God there are no such constraints. That is why in the early verses it jumps right to the end of the story.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:7 ESV
The book of Revelation is showing God’s people what was soon to take place. The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; Rev.1:1 NRSV In case we think that time has gone on too long and we despair or lose hope, we can be reassured that God is totally in control. David wrote: Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah Psalm 39:5 ESV
And Peter writes in the New Testament: But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV
We have so often tried to make this book into an historical narrative like other Scripture. In making this book fit into periods of history as they affected the church, we are losing its main trust which is Jesus helping his people to understand the experiences they are going through. By making the messages to the seven churches into an historical narrative we miss their main thrust which is, God talking to us personally.
A joyous blessing rests upon the one who reads this message and upon those who hear and embrace the words of this prophecy, for the appointed time is in your hands. Rev.1:3 TPT
The message to the seven churches in chapters two and three of Revelation describe the experiences of each one of us. From our victorious ‘first love’ experience, to our more intense struggle with sin as the Holy Spirit does his work. This is a description of our own personal lives. For, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Rev.3:19 ESV
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. Rev.1:1,5 ESV The book of Revelation operates outside of time as we know it.
But back to our main theme for this article. The 144,000 representing the world wide church with all of its variety and imperfections is the invisible church – the spiritual body of Christ. They represent believing Christians who have an understanding of the plan of salvation. 144,000 is a symbolic number. It represents completeness and wholeness. But didn’t we just say that it is made up of very human people with faults? Yes that is the case. But look at the gospel. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? ….. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Rom.7:24; 8:1
Like all Christians these people are not perfect but they are guided by the Holy Spirit. They are the Christians who just happen to live at the time when Jesus returns. This is explained in an Old Testament passage of Scripture.
And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. Zech.3:1-4
This is the experience of every child of God.
Our standing with God is always the righteousness of Christ, not affiliation with any church organisation. Some readers would be familiar with the following statement.
God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church. Where two or three are present who love and obey the commandments of God, Jesus there presides, let it be in the desolate place of the earth, in the wilderness, in the city enclosed in prison walls. The glory of God has penetrated the prison walls, flooding with glorious beams of heavenly light the darkest dungeon. His saints may suffer, but their sufferings will, like the apostles of old, spread their faith and win souls to Christ and glorify His holy name. The bitterest opposition expressed by those who hate God’s great moral standard of righteousness should not and will not shake the steadfast soul who trusts fully in God. ‘The Upward Look’ p.315
This statement is talking about the true believers who keep his commandments in the true New Testament, spiritual sense of the Word. They are not and never will be commandment keepers in the sense of doing certain things. (Gal.3:10)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14 ESV
In the Old Testament era when God demonstrated his power through miracles, his people demonstrated their loyalty by ‘doing’. In the New Testament era when God has clearly demonstrated his character through his Son, His people respond to that revelation through believing.
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1 John 3:23 ESV
What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. 54 Special Testimonies, Series A, 9:62.
The thought that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, not because of any merit on our part, but as a free gift from God, is a precious thought. The enemy of God and man is not willing that this truth should be clearly presented; for he knows that if the people receive it fully, his power will be broken. 57Gospel Workers (1893 ed.), 103.
This then brings us to another characteristic of the 144,000. We are told in chapter 14: 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, Rev. 14:4 ESV
What does it mean that this group are not defiled with women ? Now there are some who are going to say that this is referring to the clergy of certain denominations who practice celibacy. There is a broader, more circumspect meaning to this verse. We should allow the Bible to interpret itself. As we went back to the book of beginnings to gain insight into the faulty human characters of the 144,000 so we can go back to Genesis again to help us in our understanding of this passage. There we find that the first woman on this earth was associated with the original lie. But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:4-6 ESV
In believing this lie, Eve set a precedent for all of the generations of mankind who were to come from her. All lies about the character of God and his dealing with his creation began at this time. Lies such as the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the teaching of evolution.
Genesis is a book of foundations, the book of beginnings. When it says in Rev.14:4 that these people were not defiled with women, it means that they are not influenced by lies, or false doctrine: … and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless. Rev.14:5 ESV
In the next chapter of Revelation we read: Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” Revelation 14:8 ESV
This is the very opposite of the 144,000 who were not defiled with ‘lies’ – false doctrines.
This mention of Babylon, describes the utter confusion that exists in the world today, even in the religious world. This is what Paul warned of : “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:” 2 Thess. 2:11. God hates lies and falsehood.
You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Jn.8:44
The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world ― he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Rev.12:9
The language of the book of Revelation is truth through symbolism and we need to go back to the beginnings to understand it. This is one reason why it is so important to understand and believe the foundational truths of Genesis and not to rationalise them away through false science, so called evolution. The truths of Genesis – creation, the fall, the promise of redemption, the history of Israel – are all keys to understanding the last book of the Bible – Revelation.
In the Old Testament, Israel were the called and chosen people. They were the ones who held the oracles of God. They were responsible for revealing God to the world. This was done largely through the sanctuary service. It was their responsibility to reveal God’s character and his will for this world. So the Christian church today is told to measure (understand) the sanctuary. Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Come and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, Rev.11:1 NRSV
On this website we have spoken at length of the sanctuary.
Do we find strife and bickering and contention within the confines of the church that claims to be God’s last bastion of truth? We most certainly do. But we would expect that. If they are the bastion of God’s final truth to this world we would expect them to be the subjects of Satan’s most vicious and concerted attacks. Just as the master of evil led ancient Israel into unbelief and wickedness, so today he will attempt to smash God’s church into irrelevance.
As much as God loves truth and the holders of it, he is not dependent on humanity to complete his work. Its too important for that. This is what he said in Jer 31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Unlike the 144,000, the great multitude were without number and scattered throughout all the nations of the world. These come out of great tribulation and give glory to God. At this moment of time there are those in all countries of the world who are surrendering their lives to God and trusting in the merits of their risen Saviour. This is no small thing in the eyes of God. God looks into people’s heart’s. He is not looking for theological ‘correctness’ but honesty and transparency. These are the attributes that Heaven values.
We have dealt with the absolute importance and imperative of intercession in other articles on this website. (See the article A Message For Sabbath Keepers)
What sets them apart, these 144,000? The very next thing mentioned in Scripture after speaking of their origins in Rev.7, is the power of intercession. (Rev. 8:3-5)
It is a spiritual church – the spiritual Body Of Christ. They hold, not only the truth, but an earnest desire for the salvation of those around them. If those who were originally called don’t fulfill their calling God will raise up a “great multitude” who will. We’re talking here about the invisible church, seen only by God. The Lord knows those who are his.
What is the purpose of a people having special knowledge of something? God’s purpose has always been to reach out to the world to save souls. That was the reason for being of ancient Israel.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation and deliverance among all nations.Psalm 67:2 AMP
This has always been the message of the sanctuary. The table of shewbread and the lampstand representing God’s complete provision for the salvation of mankind. Both the table and lampstand are representations of the perfect provisions from the hand of God. They are purely divine in their origin. What about the altar of incense? This is as important as the other two articles of furniture. But it is different in that it has a human element to it. Prayers come from human beings who have been led by the Holy Spirit and saved by the blood of the Saviour. This human element is fractious i.e. given to disagreement or irritation. A sincere Christian will recognize this weakness that lies within, and surrender to God.
The altar of incense shows us that God has seen fit to make us, his people, an essential part of his plan. If God has called a people and given them special insights and knowledge, it is not to glorify them. It is to make them a part of his plan in saving souls. No matter how cut off and isolated a person may be, the nature of this work is such that a person on their own before God can be as effective as a preacher standing before thousands. This is the power of intercession as portrayed in Revelation.
* * * * * *