“And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:” (Revelation 7:4)… “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1)
Who are they?
Who are the 144,000 mentioned in the Book of Revelation? Throughout the entire history of the Church even to the present day many fine Bible scholars have set forth their views regarding this number mentioned. Once more it needs to be emphasised when looking at any Biblical subject we must always keep in mind the context and the co-texts and also remember that scripture is not a matter of one’s own private interpretation. Almost every heresy and cult that has plagued the Christian Church throughout its long history have originated by someone taking Bible verses out of context, isolating them from other Biblical texts and then spiritualising or interpreting them according to a personal opinion or so called “inner revelation.” This is Gnosticism! When the apostle John wrote his gospel, his epistles and Revelation Gnosticism was rampant.
Be aware of “Gnosticism”
Gnosticism is a word from which we get the word “knowledge” or “to know” however, it is a form of so called “inner spiritual knowledge and enlightenment” known only to those who claim to have this “revelation.” The Apostle John mentioned the Gnostics in his Epistles. They were once part of the believing community but had somehow received an “inner” and some so called “supernatural enlightenment” that went beyond what the apostles were teaching consequently they went out from the community and formed their own cult. They denied the Triune nature of God and the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the way of salvation only pound in Him.
“It is the last hour”
(1 John 2:18-20) “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know the truth.”
These Gnostics claimed that the Lord Jesus was only one of many paths to finding God. The equivalent of this today would be the New Age Movement and Post-Modernism with its existential emphasis. Postmodernism and existentialism are “bed-fellows.” Basically their philosophy is this; “However you understand God and perceive Him to be is alright and no-one has the right to enforce his or her personal opinion.” In other words; “Whatever you perceive God to be then that is what He is for you!” This “subjective revelation” is not based on the Bible but on one’s opinion or so called “inner enlightenment.” If it disagrees with the Bible so what they will say! Gnostics defined are those both in the Church and outside the Church that promote subjective and “inner” revelation experience and knowledge that goes beyond what is written in the scriptures. Plainly speaking it is when the opinions of men are considered of more importance than what the Bible says. This is “a plague” within the professing Christian Church today. Paul himself quotes the Old Testament when he says; “Do not go beyond what is written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6) Of course there is always the possibility that any sincere Bible student if not careful can go beyond what the scripture says. Remember there is no knew revelation of scripture but only a deeper understanding of what is already written and revealed in the Word of God the Bible. With this in view we need to look at the three main and basic views regarding the 144,000.
View No 1. Israel
There are those who understand the 144,000 to be literal Jewish male believers who will be witnesses to the Gentile world during the three and a half years of the Great Tribulation also called “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” This is especially believed by those holding this view because the Bible specifically says the 144,000 mentioned were, “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.” Those who are in the dispensational camp of Eschatology promote this view as they make a radical separation between Israel and the Church. They say it has to apply to Israel and more so because the Church will have been raptured before the Great Tribulation. Of course they vigorously promote the idea of a Pre-Tribulation rapture of the Church.
Now there is no doubt that Israel is implied, however, can the 144,000 only be restricted to a literal number of Jewish believers? If there was no other reference to them in the book of Revelation other than in chapter seven then this would be the acceptable view, however they are mentioned again in Revelation chapter fourteen and when they are described it would seem that they include Jewish believers but not exclusively Jews only. The Dispensationalists say that these literal 144,000 Jews will be the ones preaching the gospel in the Great Tribulation resulting in the conversion of many who will become the “Tribulation Saints.” One thing that is somewhat of an irony is that Dispensationalists will tell you that when the Church is taken away at the rapture that the Holy Spirit will also be taken, however, if that is the case then by what power and anointing will the 144,000 preach the gospel? Furthermore this whole idea of the Holy Spirit being taken out with the Church at the rapture cannot be supported by scripture. At best it is an inference. Are we open to the possibility that the 144,000 include Jewish believers but are not exclusively Jewish but also include a wider group, namely Gentile believers as well? Now let’s continue.
View No 2. The Church
There are those who believe that the 144,000 refers exclusively to the Church only. Those in this camp primarily believe that God has finished with the Jews as a nation and that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. They will tell you that when Israel is referred to in relation to believers that it means the Church, or what they would say is “The Israel of God” In other words to coin a phrase they would say that the 144,000 are “spiritual Jews” or ”spiritual Israel.” These terms of course cannot be found in the Bible. Usually those who hold to this view are in the “Replacement Theology Camp.” Many of them would undoubtedly join ranks with those who are saying that Israel has no right to the land of Israel and that calling Israel ‘Palestine’ is perfectly acceptable; furthermore some would even go as far as to say that the Jewish people are the usurpers and even equal to Apartheid! Many in the Amillennial camp would endorse this although there are exceptions.
Some Amillennialists still believe that God has a purpose for Israel although they would not really concern themselves about it very much as they believe that the promises made to Israel really only apply to the Church. Both the Amillennial and Postmillennial Eschatology buffs would definitely agree that the 144,000 is a symbolic number. Furthermore, Ephraim and Dan are missing from the list of the 12 tribes mentioned. Of course they can put forward a reasonable argument as to why this is so, however, the key word we need to consider is the word “Israel” but with a wider application than meaning exclusively Jews only.
View No 3. Israel and the Church collectively
There is a third position which embraces God’s purposes for Israel and the Church that sees a parallel restoration happening with Israel and the Church that will ultimately cumulate in them becoming one people under their Messiah our Lord Jesus Christ. Israel and the Church can be likened to the two sides of the same coin, separate yet one. Separate but with a common destiny to fulfil. A faithful remnant both in the Old and the New Testament linked through faith and by their Spiritual father Abraham, “The Father of all who believe.” You could say that the third view could be titled “Remnant Theology,” a theology that is both Biblical and Spiritual and that allows for God’s purposes to be fulfilled in Israel and in the Church. One thing to keep in mind that there are promises made to Israel and promises made to the Church. Sometimes they will be to Israel but by extension also apply to the Church. Then there are other promises that have been made to Israel as a nation and do not apply to the Church at all. Remnant theology allows for God’s promises to be fulfilled to Israel as a nation and to the Church as well. This is the view that we will now pursue. This we believe is the more scriptural view.
The 144,000 in Context
Texts out of context are pretexts and can be interpreted in anyway someone pleases. When looking at any doctrine, teaching and theology we must always look at the context and the co-texts. In other words what else does scripture say about the texts we may be looking at. With this in view we will proceed. Now in Revelation chapter seven the 144000 are pictured between the sixth and the seventh seals and are already in the Great Tribulation. Also listed with them is the unnumbered multitude of believers who are “these who are coming out of the Great Tribulation,” In other words to come out of something you have to be already in it. This multitude is directly connected to the 144,000. They are two separate groups of people yet one. This is much clearer when you see the description of the 144,000 in Revelation chapter fourteen. They have been “sealed” by God. The seal is the Holy Spirit without whom no-one can be saved. (Ephesians 4:30) They have been marked out as the Lord’s own possession. They are present in the world just before the final judgements are to be poured out on the inhabitants of the earth. Once the sealing of the remnant has been completed then the four winds of heaven will be released and the four horseman of the Apocalypse will make their final ride across the face of the earth.
The seventh and last trumpet
Once the sealing is completed the trumpets are blown announcing the culmination of this present age with the last trumpet announcing the return of the Messiah. When the seventh angel sounded his trumpet there were loud voices in heaven shouting “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) This also is the Last trumpet which will see the rapture and the resurrection take place. It takes place right at the end of the Great Tribulation. (1 Corinthians 15:51-55) (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) (Matthew 24:31)
Rahab’s red cord
Remember Rahab the prostitute (a type of the believing remnant) was rescued after the final trumpet was blown when the walls of Jericho collapsed. She was flying the scarlet cord from her window. Spiritually she was protected by the blood of the Messiah, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Because she was under the blood she did not experience the final wrath of God when it fell upon the city of Jericho. Likewise the faithful believing remnant in Israel and the Church will go into the Great Tribulation but be taken out just before the bowls of God’s wrath are poured out. Remember what the apostle Paul said; that “God has no destined us for wrath but to obtain salvation (deliverance) through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The faithful remnant will experience the wrath of Satan but never the wrath of God. Already in most parts of the world today faithful believers are being persecuted and killed for their faithfulness to Yeshua. The Beast Empire is already persecuting the saints!
The wrath of Satan
Most of the Great Tribulation is the wrath of Satan but only at the end of the Great Tribulation does it become the wrath of God. God’s judgements will fall more heavily and frequently during the Great Tribulation but only right at the end of it will His wrath be poured out without restraint upon a Christ hating, Christ rejecting world! Just as this is about to happen the believing remnant will be gathered to meet the Lord Jesus in the air at His coming. After the bowls of wrath have been poured out Jesus will return with His faithful remnant to destroy the Antichrist, his beast empire and establish the Millennial Kingdom. (Revelation 19-11-21 20:1-6) At that time every Jew will have been saved! As it is written; “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26) At the rapture and resurrection every living Jew and every living believer in the Lord Jesus will all be rescued. Then there will truly be one flock and one shepherd who together with their Messiah reign on the earth!
The 144,000 Revealed
If we only had Revelation chapter seven then we could more definitely separate the 144,000 sealed out of all the sons of the tribes of Israel from the great multitude coming out of the Great Tribulation. However, when we look at Revelation chapter fourteen in context with other passages of scripture we can clearly see that the 144,000 is not just Jewish believers in the Lord Jesus but the whole of the redeemed collectively with their Messiah. We know the Lamb is not a literal lamb but a reference to the person of Jesus and His atoning work at the cross. Likewise, the 144,000 sealed can apply to the whole of the believing remnant keeping in mind that the Gentile believers have been grafted into the Olive tree which is Israel. The wild olive branches (Gentiles) have replaced some of the natural branches (individual Jews who have rejected Jesus) The Gentile believers have been grafted into their Olive tree which is Israel. They are part of the believing remnant. They are all by faith sisters and daughters of Abraham, the father of all who believe both in the Old and the New Testament.
In dealing with the 144,000 we are in fact dealing with a believing remnant represented symbolically by this number. It is a complete and fixed number known to God. It is a description of the whole of the redeemed! It also allows for the blending together of Israel with the Church. Separate entities yet one people!
When you look at how they are described in chapter fourteen it would seem that this company includes both believing Jews and Gentiles reigning together with Jesus their Lord and Messiah. Notice that they are on Mount Zion! The real Mount Zion is located in Jerusalem! The original Mount Zion where the City of David stood was levelled by the last king of the Hasmonean dynasty ruling in Israel just before the Romans came in. Mount Zion always overlooked the Temple. There is evidence today that the Dome of the Rock is not the original site of the Temple (See Ken Klein’s DVD titled, “Israel and the Lost Temple of the Jews” It is a fascinating and factual documentary and well worth seeing!)
We need to always keep in mind that in the Old Testament “Zion” refers to Jewish believers and by extension believing Gentiles. Zion includes them both. Remember that Israel and the Church are like parallel railway lines. When you look at them close up they are parallel and distinctly separate but when you follow them with your eyes into the horizon somewhere up ahead they appear to meet together. Both Israel and the Church have a common destiny. Our Lord Jesus said this was so; “I have other sheep, (Gentiles) which are not of this fold; (Israel) I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Clearly He showed by His statement that God’s unique plan is to ultimately have a faithful remnant to reign with His Son in the Millennial Kingdom.
The 144,000 Redeemed
Let’s now look at the text of Revelation chapter fourteen1-5. It is clear that this company of 144,000 must include the believing remnant in both Testaments who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! Let’s read the text and then look at what it says…
(Revelation 14:1-5) “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” There are several things we can see from our text…
1. They were with The Lamb on Mount Zion:
(Vs.1) “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion,”
We have already mentioned that Mount Zion in the Old Testament was the original mount upon which King David built the City of David. It overlooked the Temple. It was built over the Gihon Springs, the water supply to the city. David of course is a major type of the Messiah in the Old Testament. He was the King. He reigned over the people of Israel from his city on Mount Zion. From there he administered justice and God’s law. His descendant the Lord Jesus Christ is also destined to reign on Mount Zion. He will reign over and reign from the City of Jerusalem. His city will overlook the Millennial Temple. In the Old Testament the prophet Isaiah spoke of Zion and always applied it to the redeemed dwelling with their Messiah. Sometimes he was referring only to Israel but then in many passages it included the Church as well. In its overall Biblical context when the Lord speaks about Zion He had in mind all of the redeemed throughout all of the ages going all the way back to Abel. (See Isaiah chapters 60-62)
According to the New Testament all true believers whether Jew or Gentile are now reigning with Jesus in the Heavenly realms. They are seated in the heavenly spiritual realm with Christ Jesus already yet physically they are still on earth. Those who have fallen asleep (died) in Him are already dwelling on Mt Zion in Heaven with their Messiah. Whether they are in the body or out of the body, the saints are already reigning with our Lord Jesus Christ in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19-23 2:6)
When the Lord Jesus comes back the rapture and resurrection will take place. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) (Matthew 24:31) Those still alive and those who have fallen asleep in Him will all appear together with Him in the air and be gathered around Him as He comes to the earth. The Kingdom of God will be revealed for all to see. While every believer (dead or alive) now reigns with Him in the heavenly realms they are ultimately destined to reign with Him on earth in the Millennial Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is now but not yet! See also; (Psalm 48:1-14) (Isaiah 24:23) (Joel 2:32) (Obadiah 1:17) (Obadiah 1:21) (Micah 4:1) (Micah 4:7) (Isaiah 9:7) (Luke 1:33) (2 Timothy 2:12) (Revelation 2:26-27; 11:15; 20:6; 22:5)
2. They had Jesus’ name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads:
“…and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.”
In ancient civilizations slaves were physically branded by their owners. This practice has continued even down to the present day where slavery is concerned. In ancient time the mark or brand symbolised ownership. It was a physical and outward mark that could not be removed. It was permanent. It was for life. However, in the Bible it has more to do with the thoughts and the motives of the heart and mind. In the book of Ezekiel we read what God said to His prophet; “But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house.” The Mark of God on His prophet was a God-given determination to remain steadfast despite severe opposition. The forehead was made the seat of boldness of speech and act! It was the Power of the Holy Spirit that enabled Ezekiel to stand his ground against extreme opposition. He was not a popular prophet unlike many today who are always talking about blessing and prosperity and having it good in this world.
The beast empire of the Antichrist will have a mark on the forehead or the right hand (arm) which will be a mark of allegiance to the Antichrist and his system of government. It will be a symbol or mark of his empire. It will also be a sign of those who worship his image. It will be taken voluntarily. A decision will have to be made. To refuse this mark will mean instant death. Again taking the physical mark is not the main thing but what it represents. In other words those who will take the outward mark have already decided in their minds and hearts to worship the image of the Beast Empire. Once again it has to do with the thoughts, intents and motives of the heart and mind especially in relation to the world with its ungodly appetites and desires.
Today many of those who have given their allegiance to the beast empire of Islam wear a badge of servitude. Around their foreheads they have a headband and also an arm band on their right arms. On the front of the head band is written the Islamic declaration of faith. It shows their allegiance to Allah and to his prophet Mohammed. Of course, as we have already discussed in other studies, Allah is not the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob at all but the ancient Mesopotamian moon-god of war symbolised by the crescent moon and the crossed swords.
What the final “mark” will be remains to be seen. However, the beast empire of the Antichrist will have a mark enforced upon all his subjects throughout his entire kingdom. It will mean that those who have taken the outward mark have already taken it in their hearts. Just before the Ord Jesus comes back there will only be two options to choose from. There will only be two decisions to be made. Will it be for Christ or the Antichrist? No one will be left in a vacuum. This is why we must reverence, love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts and minds and live according to the word of God because what we do with Him now will determine our ultimate allegiance when the beat empire is given power over the saints to conquer them and to mark them.
What we allow to shape our hearts and minds now will determine what will shape them when the mark of the beast becomes a reality for believers in the Lord Jesus. Already in Muslim countries today believers are being forced to submit to Islam or lose their heads. Beheading is not only the standard practice of Islam but also mentioned in the Bible as the means of execution in the beast empire of the Antichrist. (Revelation 20:4)
God’s seal and name are in the foreheads (mind and heart) of His servants, the conspicuous, noblest part of man’s body, and the seat of the understanding and upon which the hope and helmet of Salvation are worn. What really matters is the thoughts, the motives and the intents of the heart and in what we say and do every day. If we confess the Lord Jesus before men He will confess us before His Father in Heaven but if we deny Him then He will deny us.
The decisions we make now concerning Jesus and His Word will determine the decisions we will have to make in the future. What we think, say and do now will determine our ultimate allegiance! According to the New Testament the “seal” or “mark” of ownership is the Blessed Holy Spirit living in the mind and the heart of the believer. It is the “engagement ring” of our betrothal to the Lord Jesus. A betrothal and pledge to be consummated as it were at the wedding feast when He returns for His bride.
(1 Corinthians 1:22) “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (Ephesians 1:13-14) “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Revelation 22:3-5) “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”
Bond servants or bond slaves were those who had voluntarily and willingly sworn undying loyalty and allegiance to their master as rightful Lord. It was an act of love and devotion! It was not forced on them. It was a sacred and solemn pledge not to be taken lightly or broken! It was for life!
We read about this in the Book of Exodus “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.” (Exodus 21: 2-6) Notice it was sealed permanently by the shedding of blood.
In the book of Exodus the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of the Israelite houses protected them from the plague of death. Indeed it is written “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us!” In the New Testament all those who have given their allegiance to the Lord Jesus by faith have had the doorposts of their minds, their hearts and their consciences sprinkled and marked with the blood of Christ the spotless Lamb of God! (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22) It is the blessed Holy Spirit who applies and sprinkles the blood of the Messiah upon God’s people. (1 Peter 1:2). What else do we discover about the 144,000 sealed believers?
3. They sang a New Song having been purchased from the earth:
(Vss. 2-3) “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.”
The joy of the Lord always accompanies Salvation. As Isaiah the prophet said; “With joy shall you draw waters from the well of Salvation.” This is the living water of the Holy Spirit and joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Nehemiah the prophet also tells us that; “The joy of the Lord will be your strength.” It was this living water Yeshua offered to the woman at the well whose spiritual thirst needed quenching. He Himself is the source of the living water of the Holy Spirit. Songs of praise and joy will always be a conspicuous mark of the redeemed! As Isaiah the prophet said; “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11)
King David spoke about this Salvation when he said; “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;” (Psalm 40:2-3a) In Isaiah chapter 61 we clearly see that the redeemed of the Lord includes all those who have been saved by the blood of the Messiah in both Testaments. They are given “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.” The whole chapter encompasses every believer in every age. God’s people are a believing remnant within Israel and by extension the Church. Gentile believers are grafted into the Olive Tree which is the people of Israel.
The Old Testament saints looked forward to the work of redemption to come. We as believers look back to the redemption in the Lord Jesus. Once again it can be said of all of the redeemed; “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us!” To limit this redeemed company of 144,000 only to a specific number of Jewish believers is to limit the overall plan and purpose of God in redeeming sinners to Himself. Redemption in the New Testament embraces all who have faith in Jesus and calls them “the seed of Abraham, the Father of Faith and of all who believe!” They have been redeemed from the earth. In other words they have been gathered out of the whole world. What else do we discover about these 144,000 redeemed from the earth?
4. They are ‘chased virgins’ who forsake all other ‘lovers’:
(Vs.4) “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”
In both Testaments the word “virgin” is used in a spiritual sense, keeping in mind the real meaning of a virgin. When a woman was betrothed to be married it was an engagement or betrothal period before the wedding. It was different than it is today in our modern culture. Engagements are broken all the time. However, in Biblical times a betrothal was much more than an engagement. It was a binding commitment between a man and a woman. The woman betrothed to be married had to be a virgin and in that period of the betrothal stay faithful to her intended husband. To break this pledge by taking another lover was to commit adultery. Even to accept the affections of another man even though there was no sexual activity involved was to break the pledge of loyalty and promised fidelity to her intended husband. The betrothal was a trial period. The sexual consummation of the relationship always happened after the wedding ceremony and wedding feast.
This is the background to the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation. They are spiritual virgins. They have remained faithful to their spouse in the betrothal period and are now with Him in glory. In the Bible good women are symbols of faithful Jews and by extension faithful Christians. Bad woman are symbols of spiritual harlotry where God’s people are seduced by the spirit of false religion and run after other idols that become the objects of their affections.
In the Old Testament God refers to Israel as His wife or virgin, implying that they are exclusively His and do not belong to another. He will have no rivals! (Ezekiel 16:32) There are references to this in the Old Testament. Here are just a few. (Isaiah 37:21) (Jeremiah 14:17; 18:13; 31:4; 31:21) (Lamentations 1:15; 2:13) (Amos 5:2) Israel was constantly committing adultery by giving their affections to idols in their hearts and minds. Time and time again God sent His prophets and messengers to call them back to their first love for Him.
This truth is also seen in the Book of Proverbs and especially in the Song of Solomon. In the Song of Solomon you have two types of virgins. One is anticipating the return of her spouse and is dressed to meet Him and opens the door to Him when he knocks. The other one is too lazy to get out of bed and get dressed. When she finally goes out to meet her intended Bridegroom He has gone! Remember the wise and foolish virgins. Five were ready and five were not ready. Five went into the wedding feast and five were shut out!
For many within the ranks of Israel and Christendom the Second Coming of our Lorde Jesus Christ will be their best dream come true or their worst nightmare! This 144,000 “had not been defiled with women” implying that during their betrothal time on the earth they had remained faithful to their spouse the Lord Jesus. In eternity the elect are known to God. He knows who will ultimately be saved and lost. However, the reason He has not sent Jesus back yet is because “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
There are those who should be saved, who could be saved and God wants them to be saved who will be lost forever because they have chosen to completely love this world and the things of this world. They are in bed with the world! Remember what John the Apostle said; “If any man loves the world then the love of the Father is not in him.” And again he said that; “friendship with the world is to be at enmity with God!”
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul said to the believers at Corinth; “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3) His concern was that they might be led astray from their betrothal to their spouse the Lord Jesus Christ.
Spiritual seduction is always personified in Jezebel in the Old Testament who through witchcraft and seduction and false prophets deceived King Ahab and led him and Israel into sin. She, like other bad women in the Bible, represents spiritual seduction. (Revelation 2:20-23). So then on the basis of the Word of God the 144,000 would be the whole company of the redeemed in both Testaments who have remained faithful to their spouse the Lord Jesus They now appear in heavenly glory. The faithful wife appears with her spouse! They are ready for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! Notice the text also says; “They follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” Paul also said; “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) What else do we discover?…
5. They are “firstfruits” to God and to the Lamb.
“… These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”
We read about the first fruits in Torah. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:9-12)
The Feast of firstfruits in the Old Testament is the background to understanding the term “firstfruits” used in both Testaments. In the Old Testament It had to do with the harvest. The Feast of Firstfruits was one of the Great Jewish feasts celebrated in the Bible. The firstborn of the flocks and the first vegetables and grains were to be gathered at harvest time. The Hebrew people knew that these belonged to the Lord as He had commanded them to do. They were dedicated or presented to Him on the day of the firstfruits, a part of the celebration of Pentecost. (Numbers 28:26) (2 Chronicles 31:5) Of course on the Day of Pentecost there was a harvest of firstfruits when 3,000 Jewish people were saved. They were all Jewish. Of course after the Spirit had fallen on the Jewish believers on that day it was not very long after that before Gentiles also started to be saved.
Them in Leviticus 23:9-12 we are told that on the day the priest waved the sheath before the Lord a one year old male lamb without defect was also killed as a burnt offering and its blood shed to atone for the sins of the people of God. Of course it is a picture of Our Lord Jesus Christ the Passover Lamb whose blood was shed to sinners whether Jew or Gentile. Once again as it is written; “Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Now the first sheave from the harvest waved before the Lord also represented the resurrection of Yeshua and by extension redeemed Jews and Gentiles collectively. The use of the term “firstfruits” here in Revelation chapter fourteen has a much wider application. It includes Jewish believers but extends to the company of all the redeemed. Yeshua in His resurrection is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians. 15:20-23). He is the firstfruit and the redeemed in Him share in His resurrection also.
The Church gets its identification from Israel. On the Day of Pentecost the Church was born and it was a Jewish Church. These were the firstfruits of the harvest to come. The Gentiles believers to come in would be an extension of the believing Jews. They would be grafted into the Olive Tree which is Israel. Together they would all benefit from the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus. On the Day of Pentecost the firstfruit of the spiritual harvest were Jews. The Jewish Church was the firstfuits of the spiritual harvest of the Gentiles to come. The 144,000 are most definitely identified with believing Israel but when we see them described they include a wider group. Such terms as “sealed” “a new song” “redeemed” “chaste” “purchased” “No lies” “blameless” and offered as “firstfruits” are terms used of believers in the New Testament whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
So then the 144,000 represent the redeemed in Israel as the first fruits of the spiritual harvest to come. In Revelation chapter seven the great multitude coming out of the Great Tribulation are connected to the 144,000. They are a separate and distinct group yet one. As already mentioned Israel and the Church are like two sides of the same coin, separate yet one. Paul writing to the Galatian believers said that In Christ; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then are you Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
Paul considered all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, as being all Abraham’s descendants because they have the same kind of faith in God that he had. Look at what he said in Galatians and compare it with what he said in Romans; “If some of the branches (unbelieving Jews) have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot (believing Gentiles) have been grafted in among the others (believing Jews) and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, (Israel) do not boast over those branches. (Gentiles grafted in) “If you do, consider this; You do not support the root (Israel) but the root (Israel) supports you.” (Romans 11:17-18)
It is clear that Gentile believers are one with believing Jews and collectively they are all true descendants of Abraham the Father of faith and of all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for Salvation. Believing Jews were the harbinger of believing Gentiles to come. This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost. In the last days just prior to the return of our Lord Jesus, God will pour out His Spirit upon Israel. This will be “the latter rain” of the Spirit. (Joel 2:23) (James 5:7) When Jesus comes back to earth all Israel will be saved! (Zechariah 12:10-14; 13:1) On that day not one Jew will be lost! Every Jew that has survived the time of Jacob’s trouble and are left on the earth will be saved. Once the Gentile remnant has been gathered in the Jewish remnant will also be gathered in and then there will be one shepherd and one flock!
So the Church, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles, is the harvest that has come out of the first Church which was Jewish. The 144,000 are called firstfruits but so are believers also called firstfruits. James said that the Lord, “of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:18) These texts further show us that believing Jews and Gentiles are eternally linked through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Again we need to see that the Church is the extension of Israel and has not replaced Israel!
6. They are pure in heart and life.
(Vs.5) “And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.”
The New Testament says this; “If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.” (Romans 11:16) When Paul wrote these words he was establishing the fact that if God is Holy then so are His people. If the Lord Jesus is Holy then all those who are in Him are also holy. In fact Paul said this; “But by His (God) doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) The Lord Jesus Himself said; “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” He also said that “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words what is in a person’s heart in abundance will determine what comes out of their mouth and is expressed in their actions.
The 144,000 redeemed and sealed by God are described as being pure in heart and blameless. To say “No lie was found in their mouth” is to say that they have pure hearts, filled with love for God and man. They have no mixed motives or half-hearted desires but are one with their Lord and Messiah. They are branches in Him bearing fruit for God. Their holiness is directly derived from Him and through their relationship with Him. Because they are holy in their motives and desires and reverence Jesus as Lord in their hearts they are “blameless” in what they say and in their outward actions. As it is also written; “Holiness adorns your house O Lord.”
The fact that they have been redeemed means that they have been redeemed from the Egypt of this world with its ambitions, attitudes and desires. They have been delivered from the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and from the pride of life! They are no longer slaves to Satan but bond slaves to the Lord Jesus. They have changed Lords. They are under new management! They are those who have overcome the world the flesh and the Devil himself. As it is written; “And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (Revelation 7:11) As it is also written; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:11-14)
If we only had the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation chapter seven then we could well say they were Jewish, however they crop up again in revelation chapter fourteen and their description seems to include a wider company. When you look at how they are described and the spiritual attributes they have they describe all believers. The terms used are used of all believers in the Lord Jesus and not just Jewish ones. Again it is worthy to mention that such terms as “sealed” “redeemed” “purchased” “chaste” “who follow the Lamb” who are “firstfruits” “whose hearts are pure” and whose conduct is “blameless” can all apply to every believer in the Lord Jesus. The New Testament confirms this clearly.
In the light of the scriptures we must conclude that the 144,000 include a Jewish and Gentile remnant of faithful believers both Jews and Gentiles who make up the Olive tree which is Israel! Ethnically Jews are Jewish and the Gentiles are non-Jewish but they do not lose their individual ethnicity. This is a unique thing that the Lord is doing. He will have one flock and one shepherd and in the Millennial Kingdom they will all co-reign with the Lord Jesus Christ in His kingdom on earth.
Jesus’ words will be finally and completely fulfilled. “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16) And again He said; “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11) When our Lord Jesus returns the marriage feast of the Lamb will take place. (Revelation 19:7) Make sure that you have your wedding gown on namely the garment of Salvation which is the robe of Jesus’ own righteousness. Without His righteousness received through faith and sealed in our hearts and minds by the Blessed Holy Spirit and without being sprinkled with His blood we will never see the Kingdom of God and be shut out from the wedding feast of the Lamb!