Who Are the 144,000?
Who are the 144,000 in the Bible? What happens to them and where are they from? Are they certain people from the past? Is it only a certain kind of people?
There has been much confusion and debate in regard to these individuals, from their identity to the role that they will play in the future Tribulation. Various cults such as the Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists and the Mormons have all staked their claim to being associated with this group in some form or fashion. Even some protestant church leaders have claimed that these individuals are church age Christians who are predestined to endure the tribulation. As usual, the safest way to approach the Bible is to let it interpret itself which is the only way to be doctrinally sound in these matters.
These 144,000 individuals are specifically mentioned in Revelations chapter 7 and 14 and alluded to in other passages that we will be referencing as well. They are first mentioned after the first six seals have been opened and poured out on the Earth (Revelations 6) but before the seventh seal is opened (Revelations 8). They show up between these judgments that are pronounced by the Lord on the wicked that inhabit the Earth after the church (new testament believers) have been "called out" to Heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:15).
Revelation 7:1-7 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. 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, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 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. 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. 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. 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.
Now the Bible is quiet on these witnesses until they show up again in chapter 14 where we read the following:
Revelation 14:1-5 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. 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.
Previously in chapter 7 we saw that these men were on Earth but here in chapter 14 they are now said to be dwelling in Mt. Sion (Heaven - Hebrews 12:22). Thus we can summarize that they are sealed by God while abiding on Earth and then raptured during the last half of the Tribulation before the final judgments are carried out on the world (which would make a strong case for these Jewish virgins being the wise, elect "virgins" that Jesus is referring to in Matthew 24:29-31, Matthew 25:1-13, Psalm 45:13,14, Song of Solomon 6:8,9).
So what else can we surmise from what the Bible has told us about these individuals? It is apparently clear to all but those that reject the Word of God (and wrest it to their own destruction - 2 Peter 3:16) that the following truths are glaringly evident:
- These individuals are all literal, Jewish males inhabiting the Earth during the Tribulation and not spiritual Jews or descendants of some existing denomination.
- There are 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel for a total of 144,000.
- They are representatives of the following 12 tribes; Juda, Reuben, Gad, Aser, Nepthalim, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon, Joseph and Benjamin. Note that Dan is completely excluded and replaced with the priestly tribe of Levi. Ephraim, on the other hand, is not mentioned by name but instead is referred to by the name of his father Joseph (Joseph’s name was often substituted for Manasseh or Ephraim when referencing either tribe, which could be the case in this instance). The omission of Dan and at least the refusal to acknowledge Ephraim is apparently due to the role that these two particular tribes had in participating and in general leading the nation of Israel into idolatry. See Amos 8:14, Judges 17 and the book of Hosea, specifically chapters 4 thru 11 for God’s pronounced judgments on these two tribes.
- The Lord seals them with a mark in their forehead which distinguishes and protects them from the wrath to come. This is also similar to the mark that the repentant Jews also received in Ezekiel 9:4 when the Lord was preparing judgment against the nation of Israel for their idolatry.
- They are unmarried virgins.
- They first time they make an appearance on this Earth is in the middle of the Tribulation. Therefore, they are not presently in your neighborhood peddling the Watchtower, Book of Mormon or any other man made literature that conflicts and under minds the authority of the Scriptures.
- These men are "sealed" by God as protection from the wrath that is poured out on all of mankind, signified by a mark in their foreheads. It is interesting to note how the original counterfeiter Satan himself also has a distinguishing mark that he uses to seal his followers fate with as well - Revelation 13:16.
- These Jewish males are then "caught up" to Heaven before the end of the tribulation where they are continual companions of the Lamb.
- In Heaven these saints sing a new song that they alone know, praising God and the Lamb with their Harps.