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Daniel and Revelation
Chapter 21
Revelation 7 – 144,000 and the Countless Number

Revelation 7:1-8  After this, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth, or on the sea, or on any tree(2)  I saw another angel ascend from the sunrise, having the seal of the living God. He cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to harm the earth and the sea(3)  saying, "Don't harm the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the bondservants of our God on their foreheads!"  (4)  I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand , sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel (5)  of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,  (6)  of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,  (7)  of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,  (8)  of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

What does it mean to be sealed?  Is it only Jews who are sealed?  We must first take a few detours in Scripture in order to answer these questions.

Modern-day Jews are just from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and some Levi.  That’s because the Jews who returned from Babylon were originally from the southern kingdom of Judah.  The northern kingdom of Israel (or Ephraim) had already been conquered and scattered by Assyria.  They never returned.  Their bloodlines are today scattered around the world, with their Hebrew culture long lost.  Think about James 1:1:

James 1:1  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are in the Dispersion : Greetings.

James 1:1 NIV  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.

This letter from James was written to the churches.  Yet he addresses it to the twelve tribes.  I think James sees the twelve tribes as being the Church, which is Israel.  (Gentile believers are grafted into Israel.)  The twelve tribes were dispersed.  The Greek word used in this verse is diaspora .  The same Greek word was used by Peter to address the Church.

1 Peter 1:1  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen ones who are living as foreigners in the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

This Greek word was also used by John in his gospel in reference to his people, the Jews.  It's a word that is strongly associated with the Jews being scattered among the nations. 

John 7:35  The Jews therefore said among themselves, "Where will this man go that we won't find him? Will he go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?

John 7:35 NIV  The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?

Peter and James make use of this word at the very start of their letters, in their greetings to the Church.  James takes it one step further and associates it with the twelve tribes.  The Church does not replace Israel.  But there is no doubt that Gentile believers are grafted into the vine of Israel.  The 144,000, therefore, are not just Jews.  The 12,000 from Judah and the 12,000 from Benjamin are probably Jews.  But the rest of the tribes given in Revelation 7 must be Gentiles believers who will have overcome sin by the time the New Jerusalem appears.

Skipping forward to Revelation 14, we read more about the 144,000.  The 144,000 are firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.

Revelation 14:1-5  I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a number, one hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.  (2)  I heard a sound from heaven, like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of a great thunder. The sound which I heard was like that of harpists playing on their harps.  (3)   They sing a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the one hundred forty-four thousand, those who had been redeemed out of the earth (4)  These are those who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb(5)  In their mouth was found no lie, for they are blameless.

Notice all the emphasis on holiness?  The 144,000 are ready for Christ to return prior to the appearance of the New Jerusalem.  The Greek word used here for "virgins" takes the very unusual approach of being in the masculine form.  It was the custom of that time for counts of people to include only the men.  The women and children were not included in the count.  Therefore, it's my belief that there will also be 144,000 women who are redeemed from the earth at this time as well as 144,000 men.  They will all be "firstfruits" to God and the Lamb.

What does it mean to be “firstfruits”?  Why is it to God and to the Lamb?  If firstfruits simply means salvation, then it would not make sense.  Many have been saved before the end-times.  Revelation is a book that’s packed with symbolism.  We must interpret the symbolism based on prior uses of the same symbol:

1 Corinthians 15:20-23  But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the firstfruits of those who are asleep.  (21)  For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man.  (22)  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  (23)  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then those who are Christ's, at his coming.

The resurrection of Christ was the firstfruits.  His actual resurrection (on the third day) was on the feast of firstfruits, during the Passover week.  Therefore, what is the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb?  When we follow the symbolism, the 144,000 are first, after the Lamb, to receive a spiritual body.  OK, so when does it happen?  Let’s look back at a verse in this chapter of Revelation.

Revelation 7:3 ESV  "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."

The 144,000 are sealed, according to this verse, before harm to the land, sea, or trees.  This would be a reference to the first two trumpet-plagues.  Thus, 144,000 get spiritual bodies (firstfruits) prior to the trumpet-plagues.  The trumpet-plagues will be during the time that the two witnesses prophesy for 1260 days.

At the appointed time, when the entire seventy weeks of Daniel 9 are completed, the New Jerusalem will appear.  But only a few will be ready for Christ to return.  Therefore, Christ will confirm a covenant with the many for another seven years (Daniel 9:27).  It will be a time of great awakening in the Church, where people from every nation, tribe, people, and language will embrace true holiness through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  During these seven-years a great number of people will come into the olive tree of Israel.  The two witnesses will prophesy during the first half of these seven-years.  But the 144,000 will be ready ahead of time.

Revelation 3:10-13  Because you kept my command to endure, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, which is to come on the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth(11)  I am coming quickly! Hold firmly that which you have, so that no one takes your crown.  (12)  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.  (13)  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.

I believe those who are spiritually ready for Christ to return will get their spiritual bodies prior to this "hour of testing."  This is not the rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.  But it could be considered to be a partial rapture.  I also believe the New Jerusalem will appear in Earth orbit.  Everyone will see it.  Those who receive their spiritual bodies will be able to go into the New Jerusalem, where rooms have been prepared for us:

John 14:2-3 ESV  In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  (3)  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

The following verse also indicates that not all will go through the tribulation:

Luke 21:34-36  "So be careful, or your hearts will be loaded down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day will come on you suddenly.  (35)   For it will come like a snare on all those who dwell on the surface of all the earth.  (36)  Therefore be watchful all the time, praying that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will happen, and to stand before the Son of Man."

We are saved by the blood of Jesus.  That's a free gift.  No amount effort or work on our part is required.  But those who are saved are asked by Jesus to “seek first the kingdom and his righteousness.”  Salvation is a free gift.  But to seek the kingdom requires lots of work.  Only those who seek the kingdom can inherit the kingdom.  This is central to the New Wine System.

There are three different kinds of Christians.  There is the “foolish” group who do not overcome sin.  And there are the “wicked” in the church who are really enemies of Christ.  The wicked servants and the tares grow in the church along with true believers.  But they will be separated out because of the persecution of the great tribulation.  Then there is the “wise” group who overcomes sin. 

Revelation is not about salvation.  Revelation is about overcoming sin and inheriting the kingdom.  Each of the seven letters ends with a reward for those who overcome sin.  And some of the letters explicitly mention works as being sufficient or insufficient.  Salvation is not about works.  But inheriting the kingdom is very much about works.

We now continue in Revelation chapter 7.

Revelation 7:9-12  After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number , out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.  (10)  They cried with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation be to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"  (11)  All the angels were standing around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before his throne, and worshiped God,  (12)  saying, "Amen! Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might, be to our God forever and ever! Amen."

Earlier, the 144,000 were sealed.  We learned from Revelation 14 that the 144,000 stood with Christ on Mount Zion.  Now there is a countless number standing before Christ in front of the throne in heaven.  When the New Jerusalem first appears, only 144,000 are ready to see Christ.  At the end of the tribulation there is a countless number from every nation, tribe, people, and language.  The white robes indicate purity.  They have overcome all the sinful habits in their lives and have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.  Is there any question that a countless number must go through the great tribulation?  Let’s read on and find out.

We continue in Revelation chapter 7; the last five verses of the chapter.

Revelation 7:13-17  One of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are arrayed in white robes, who are they, and from where did they come?"  (14)  I told him, "My lord, you know." He said to me, " These are those who came out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes, and made them white in the Lamb's blood (15)  Therefore they are before the throne of God, they serve him day and night in his temple. He who sits on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them.  (16)  They will never be hungry, neither thirsty any more; neither will the sun beat on them, nor any heat;  (17)  for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shepherds them, and leads them to springs of waters of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

In order to come out of the great tribulation, you have to have been in the great tribulation.  So this is after the great tribulation period.

Today, most of the Church is not ready for the rapture.  We are taught that salvation and inheriting the kingdom are one and the same.  We know we are saved.  So we believe we have already inherited the kingdom.  Therefore, we fail to seek the kingdom and his righteousness.  Most Christians are not ready for Christ to return.

But 144,000 will be ready.  Then the 144,000 will visit and teach around the world in order to lead the rest of the Church into righteousness (at least those in the churches who are willing).  This will include people from every nation, tribe, people, and language.  This is a countless number who come out of the great tribulation at the post-tribulation the rapture.

After the seven-year covenant, which is after the great tribulation and the resurrection, the countless number will go to the New Jerusalem, in orbit around the earth, for the wedding banquet.  We will return with Christ for Armageddon.  Then during the millennium, we will reign with Christ as priests and kings, in order to lead the nations into righteousness.  We will rule the nations under the literal governmental rule of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Philip Brown