“And I looked, and lo a Lamb stood on Mount Zion and with Him an hundred and forty and four thousand having His Father’s name written in their foreheads,” Rev. 14:1-5.
THE 144,000 – GOD’S SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
We are already beginning to understand that the application of the thousand language of God is symbolic which speaks of greatness in terms of multitude and not necessarily in the value of arithmetical calculation. We now want to discover precisely who are these 144,000 and what brought the number to
144,000 SEALED AND THE PURPOSE OF THE SEAL
Honestly, the key to the understanding of the 144,000 of Rev. 14, that are standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion is found in Rev. 7.
In this passage we are told that John in a vision saw four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea. “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God;” the angels having the seal of the Living God said to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea (Rev. 7:1-3 NlV).
Essentially, we can see that the seal was to provide assurance that God’s people are secured from the plagues and judgments. The seal identifies those under God’s protection. (See Ezek. 9:4-6.) It is a matter of ownership or possession.
Then reading from verse 4-8 we are told, “Then I heard the numbers of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000 … from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.”
These are all marked with the seal of God in their foreheads as a sign of ownership to God like God marked the door of the children of Israel in Egypt. Just like those who have the mark of the Beast in Rev. 13 belong to the Beast.
SIGNIFICANCE OF NUMBERS
Before proceeding, let me state here that the use of numbers is very significant in Bible interpretation and especially to the writer of the Book of Revelation. This idea is very foreign to most modern Bible readers, yet it is a major key in understanding the Scriptures.
While I may not go into interpreting or giving the meaning of most numbers in this writing, suffice it to say that the most obviously symbolic numbers in Revelation are 4, 7, 12 and their multiples. The number 4 for instance stands for the number of the world created universe. You have the four seasons, four quarters of the earth, North, South, East and West.
Therefore, the four living creatures as can be found in the book of Revelation represent all creation. The number 7 denotes perfection or completion, with reference to the seven days of the creation week of Genesis’ account.
No. 8 speaks of Jesus; 9 speaks of the Holy Ghost; and No. 12 stands for the Church of God, His government; i.e., 12 speaks of the fullness of the kingdom of God, God’s Government.
So we have 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and 12 apostles in the New Testament; 12 stones at the bottom ‘of River Jordan; 12 manner of fruits in the tree of life in the Book of Revelation.
God’s Redeemed People from Both Covenants:
Now a number multiplied by 10’s, such as 144,000 (12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10) would suggest a definite but very large number or figure. See it this way: The 12 Tribes of Israel, ..times the 12 Apostles and those that they represent ..Times a very great number, 1,000.
And so 12x12x1,000 is 144,000. 1,000 being God’s number, 9 the number of the Holy Spirit, and 8 the number of Jesus.
Evidently then in line with the application of the “tens of thousands” the 144,000 stands for the entire Church throughout history; a kind of firstfruit unto God and the Lamb from amongst men (Rev. 14:4). For after this number in verse 9 of Rev. 7, we are still told of the great multitude in white robes that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (NIV).
THE SEALED 144,000 IS SYMBOLIC OF SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
One of the major reasons why the 144,000 sealed in Rev. 7 is not the literal Israel of old is the fact that the tribe of Dan is missing from this account. Secondly, in verse 7 we are told 12,000 were also sealed from the tribe of Levi; but the fact is Levi was not a tribe in Israel.
A good comparison of the Census book of Numbers Chapter 1:1-16 when God told Moses to number the children of Israel and to pick “men from the twelve tribes of Israel that will “stand with” him (v. 5), the following tribes of natural Israel were mentioned: (1) Rueben (2) Simeon, (3) Judah, (4) Issachar (5) Zebulon (6) Ephraim (7) Manasseh (8) Benjamin (9) Dan (10) Asher (11) Gad and (12) Naphtali.
Whereas Rev. 7 what we have is: (I) Judah (2) Rueben (3) Gad (4) Asher (5)~’Naphtali (6) Manasseh (7) Simeon (8) Levi (9) Issachar (10) Zebulon (11) Joseph and (12) Benjamin.
Again, notice that Joseph was not a tribe. The record in Numbers says, “of the children of Joseph; of Ephraim… of Manasseh…” (v. 10). Meaning these two tribes came out of Joseph’s children.
So you can see clearly that what we are dealing with is a spiritual matter and not just 144,000 individuals floating with Christ somewhere up in the skies up yonder. Neither is it a physical Israel of old that escaped the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
To be continued…