Today: [Revelation 7:] Who are the 144,000? Many over the centuries have attempted to identify the 144,000 mentioned in this chapter? Are they Jews? Are they the church? Are they the Jehovah Witnesses? We will delve into this question in our study.
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[Rev 7:1-17 KJV] 1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: [and there were] sealed an hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. 5 Of the tribe of Juda [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad [were] sealed twelve thousand. 6 Of the tribe of Aser [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses [were] sealed twelve thousand. 7 Of the tribe of Simeon [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar [were] sealed twelve thousand. 8 Of the tribe of Zabulon [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin [were] sealed twelve thousand. 9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and [about] the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, [be] unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. 13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 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. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Revelation chapter seven contains three main parts – the vision of the four winds, the 144,000 and the great multitude of the redeemed. It begins with John seeing four angels standing on the four corners of the earth holding back the winds that they should not blow on the earth or the sea or any of the trees of the earth. You can look at this literally, and it may, in fact, have a literal fulfillment at some point. When we think of the winds of the earth, bear in mind that it is the rotation of the earth that provokes these winds by which the various weather systems generate the ever-changing climate from season to season in different parts of the planet. If it weren’t for the wind, specifically the seven jet streams that circle the globe, the northern climates would be uninhabitable and the central land masses closer to the equator would likewise be intolerable, leaving only a small percentage of the earth where crops could grow, and people could live.
The fact that there are seven jet streams speaks of the seven spirits of God. The word for “wind” in the New Testament is “pneuma” which is also the same word for “spirit” (see John 3:8. The earth is a metaphor for humanity in its fleshly nature, and the sea is the mass of lost humanity (Isa. 57:20). The wind will not blow on the earth, the sea or any tree. Trees throughout the bible represent people (Jude 1:12; Mark 8:24; Psalm 1:3). The number four in Hebrew is the word “Daleth,” and the glyph that symbolizes this number is a representation of a door.
Can you imagine a time when the spirit of God no longer moved on the hearts of men? Jesus is the door, and the four angels could represent the four messengers who wrote the gospels that present the message of salvation to men. There is an obscure verse in 2 Thessalonians that speaks of a day that the restraining influence of God’s hand will be lifted off the earth to bring the iniquity of man to the full in advance of the final disposition of humanity before the throne of God:
[2Th 2:7 KJV] 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way.
Who is the “he” of this scripture? Some believe it is the church that will be raptured out. That is a common belief among strict dispensationalists. I would suggest it is the agency of the Holy Spirit who may very well be withdrawn in His convicting influence among men in the days before Jesus comes with 10,000 of His saints to set up a visible rule on the earth.
As these angels go about to restrain the wind, another angel comes from the east to command a brief reprieve for men and the earth and the trees of the earth. The easterly direction is understood to be the direction from which the Messiah comes to make His kingly entrance into the sealed Eastern or the Golden Gate. By extrapolation then this angel is seen as being dispatched directly from Jesus, acting in mercy to give humanity a season of space to find repentance before the further fulfillment of judgments on the earth.
The stated reason for this delay is that the servants of God might be sealed in their foreheads. The forehead represents both the will and the intellect. The church today tends to focus on the emotional side of things because the emotions are where loyalty and commitment on a shallow level originate. Christians bristle when leadership prevails upon their will compelling them to a life of discipleship. Likewise, believers can be very reticent to accept the formative instruction of doctrine upon their intellect. We spend more time massaging the emotions through music, lighting, and spectacle in the church than we do actually discipling the people into mature believers.
When John sees the angel coming forth to seal the servants of God he understands that the number will be 144,000 from every tribe. When you look at these tribes, it is interesting to make a note of which tribes are NOT mentioned. The tribes that are mentioned are in the following order:
You can see that there are twelve tribes, but Dan is excluded, apparently replaced by a “Joseph” tribe which isn’t mentioned elsewhere as an independent tribe but was the progenitor of the two half tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Neither is Ephraim mentioned. These tribes were deeply involved in idolatry, and the following verses are addressed concerning them:
[Hosea 4:17] Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
[Amos 8:14 KJV] They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.
Another thing to bear in mind is the blessing or prophetic utterance that Jacob gave over Dan in Genesis:
[Gen 49:16-17 KJV] 16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 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.
The scripture says in James 2:13 that mercy triumphs over judgment. Dan is excluded because man is not judged in Christ after the law but is accepted by virtue of the shed blood of Calvary. The prophecy of Jacob over Dan also speaks of him as an adder or snake which is a metaphor for Satan and for both these reasons and idolatry is Ephraim and Dan excluded.
What about the number 144,000 and 12,000 from every tribe? It is a fact that the ten northern tribes went into captivity to Babylon and vanished there from history. In Babylon, over the decades they inter-married and bred themselves genetically out of existence. How is it then that they will appear in the last days? Usually, the explanation is that those lines of descent still exist and that God has kept the tally of the meandering mixed bloodlines for the purposes of bringing them out into this company of 144,000. The only problem with that supposition is that when you are speaking of the tribes in the natural, you must do so under consideration to the law. Under the law to marry outside your tribe was to lose all tribal inheritance. Therefore God will not act contrary to the law in things pertaining after the law, specifically regarding the disposition of natural Israel.
The conclusion then would be that these are not tribes after the natural but rather spiritual tribes. I have known by the spirit for many years that there are tribes in God. In the unfolding of end-time revelation I believe there will come a more profound revelation about each Christians placement in spiritual tribes. We know that Jesus called natural Judaism “the synagogue of Satan” in Rev. 2:9 and that Paul made the following statement in Romans:
[Rom 2:28 NKJV] 28 For he is not a Jew who [is one] outwardly, nor [is] circumcision that which [is] outward in the flesh;
If there is spiritual identification of the believer as an inward Jew and circumcision that is spiritual and not natural, then it only follows that there also may likely be spiritual tribes of which you and I would be a part. What tribe are you? God knows – but he will make it plain if it is in our interest that He do so and if we ask Him. I know by the Spirit because of the wisdom of God that rests on me that I am a member of the tribe of Issachar according to 1 Chron. 12:32:
[1Ch 12:32] 32 of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…
What about the number? It is not literal. The number twelve is God’s number of governance and rule. We are kings and priest unto God. The enumerator 1000 speaks of ultimate fulfillment when the rule of God through the kings of the earth (born again believers) will one day be brought to full and open manifestation in an overcomer company of saints identified as this 144,000 who according to Rev. 14:4 will not “defile themselves with women.” Does this mean they are eunuchs? No. Prophetically speaking the woman or the feminine speaks of the soul of man. These are believers who will allow the Father to seal them in their will and their intellect (their foreheads) and will not allow their walk with God to be contaminated by that which originates in the soul realm or the emotional realm. That suggests a departure from the emotion-laden focus of the church as we know it.
If these servants are to be sealed in their foreheads how does that happen? Ezekiel 9:1-2 speaks of six riders who will go forth in the end times. The first five represent the five-fold ministry and are not elaborated on. The sixth rider is a sixth-man ministry that God will add to the five fold ministry that is a writing ministry because this rider has an inkhorn by his side and is commanded to seal the servants of God in their forehead. Daniel predicted a time when knowledge would increase – the defacto prophecy about the coming of the information age when WRITING is the ubiquitous most influential force in the earth. Into that estate, God in our day is raising up riders – with inkhorns by their side to write, publish, blog the message of the kingdom to call people out of the sandbox of religion into the upper slopes of the mountain of God where government and rule in Christ will participate in the climactic terminus of humanity’s lease on the earth and help usher in the kingdom. Are you willing to be sealed then by the Sixth man ministry?
Lastly, in our chapter a multitude in white robes appear giving resounding and reverberating glory to God in praise and adoration. One of the 24 elders asks John if he can identify this multitude. John is then informed that these are the redeemed that have come out of great tribulation. Here originates the term “great tribulation” that dispensationalists attribute to seven years between the church age and the millennium. What is their place before God? To serve Him that sits on the throne forever and ever and to receive from the Lamb the bread of God continually and to drink from the ever-flowing waters of redemption by which all tears will be wiped from their eyes.
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